More of Our Feelings in Worship
In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.(Psalm 16:11)
God is not unresponsive to the contrite longing of the soul. He comes and lifts the load of sin and fills our heart with gladness and gratitude. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”(Psalm 30:11,12)
But our joy does not just rise from the backward glance in gratitude. It also rises from the forward glance in hope: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”(Psalm 42:5,6)
In the end the heart longs not for any of Gods good gifts, but for God Himself. To see Him and know Him and be in His presence is the soul’s final feast. Beyond this there is no quest. Words fail. We call it pleasure, joy, delight. But these are weak pointers to the unspeakable experience. “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”( Psalm 27:4)
These are some of the affections of the heart that keep worship from being “in vain.” (Matthew 15:9) Worship is nor a mere act of willpower by which we perform outward acts. Without the engagement of the heart, we do not really worship. The engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of the feelings and emotions and affections of the heart. Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.
True worship must include inward feelings that reflect the worth of God’s glory.
Jesus told the woman at the well that worship was more than the where or the how but an attitude of the heart. In other words, worship is more than gathering, more than singing, more than hearing sermons and more than any activity in what we call “worship services.” Worship involves an encounter of the human heart with the Spirit of God.
23 But a time is coming and is already here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit [from the heart, the inner self] and in truth; for the Father seeks such people to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit [the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming ( He who is called Christ—the Anointed ); when that One comes, He will tell us everything [we need to know].” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you, am He (the Messiah).”
In another story we read of Jesus healing ten leper’s and instructs them to go show themselves to the priest. Under Jewish law or ritual this was the proper thing to do and if the priest declared you ceremonially clean you were then permitted to enter the temple and participate in all the rituals of worship. As the ten depart to do so, no doubt amazed and rejoicing that they had been delivered from living death, one of them turns around. Coming back to Jesus, he begins to express his gratitude and his deep thankfulness for his healing.
“While Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing [along the border] between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, He was met by ten lepers who stood at a distance; and they raised their voices and called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were [miraculously] healed and made clean. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, glorifying and praising and honoring God with a loud voice; and he lay face downward at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him [over and over]. He was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten [of you] cleansed? Where are the [other] nine? 18 Was there no one found to return and to give thanks and praise to God, except this foreigner?” Jesus said to him, “Get up and go [on your way]. Your faith [your personal trust in Me and your confidence in God’s power] has restored you to health.”
Look at the words: “One of them , when he saw that he was healed, turned back, glorifying and praising and honoring God with a loud voice; he lay face downward at Jesus feet, thanking him over and over.” This captures the essence of worship. Worship comes from the heart of one who has received the incredible grace and mercy of God, who has been lifted from the miry clay of sin and set upon a rock. Worship comes from one who is aware and has not taken for granted their salvation and the price it cost the Father and the Son. Worship is the result of overwhelming gratefulness that God has made Himself known and brought us into His kingdom and called us His children. Worship is the attempt to ascribe to God all He is and all He has done. Worship has no shame in expressing itself. Notice the healed leper. He turns back glorifying and praising and honoring God with a loud voice. No silent whisper here, no shame or fear of those gathered around Jesus. I suppose we could say that he “got beside himself.” It’s always amazed me that those who go to sports events such as football have no problem losing their dignity. They unashamedly paint themselves in team colors, dress in crazy apparel, do the wave, shout till they have laryngitis, sit in the cold on concrete bleachers, and stand in long lines to get into the stadium even in the rain. Now I’m not trashing this. All this indicates their passion for the sport and their team. I just wonder how these who find the liberty and courage to act in this manner feel intimidated at expressing worship to God in public gatherings. I realize some of us have been taught that expressive worship is not reverent but that is not a biblical teaching.
Not only is the healed leper speaking loudly, (Imagine how you would respond if something like this happened to you), but he lays face down in the dirt at Jesus feet thanking him over and over. The Bible doesn’t say but it’s not hard to believe he was kissing the feet of Christ in gratitude. As you read the story, you discover that this man was a Samaritan and apparently the other nine were Jews. Jesus expresses amazement that the very people of God had not returned to give God thanks and praise. Instead they had taken what they had received for granted. O that we may never take for granted the blessings and gifts of God. As we gather week after week, may I challenge you that before you gather to take a moment and think about all that God is to you. Think about all that God has done for you. Think about all that God has in store for you. Worship, worship expressively. If you must dress in your team colors, close your eyes and pretend you’re in the stadium and your team has just scored the winning touchdown. Lose your fear, timidity and shame. Worship with all your heart and body. Engage your mind, your spirit and your physical being and worship. Worship as those in heaven worship.
“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes all over and within [underneath their wings]; and day and night they never stop saying, “ Holy, holy, holy [is the] Lord God, the Almighty [the Omnipotent, the Ruler of all], who was and who is and who is to come [the unchanging, eternal God].” Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanksgiving to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and they worship Him who lives forever and ever; and they throw down their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they exist, and were created and brought into being.”
Dr. John Thompson