What Is Worship?


In 1941 Franklin Roosevelt outlined 4 Freedoms that everyone on earth should enjoy.  The Freedom of Speech, people should be able to speak their minds and have ideas of their own. Another was Freedom from Want, that everyone on earth should have their basic needs met of food clothing and shelter, and by God’s grace we are much closer to that today than we were in 1941.  Another was Freedom from Fear, the idea that we could tuck in our children in at night feeling safe. But the fourth was Freedom of Worship, that people could worship the Lord freely.  That we could express ourselves as believers.

And so today on this memorial day weekend the time when we remember how much those freedoms cost, when we remember that hundreds of thousands of people have given their lives to secure those freedoms, we thought that it would be most appropriate to enjoy that freedom.

And so today we are going to be teaching on worship and worshipping.

If you aren’t a believer and you are here today I am so glad you are here learning about what Christian worship is, though I understand if you feel like you aren’t engaged, but if you are a Christian this is the day for you to engage like you never have before. To lean into to God and to walk away a worshipper.


In the summer of 2001 it was my first summer of working at the JH Ranch and we had Pentecost celebration, it was 50 days after Easter, and we were celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church.  I was 19 years old I was with a bunch of other 19, 20, 21 year old kids, but that we sang and prayed for 6 hours.  And I had been in church my whole life, but that night I really learned how to worship.  In like one night, I walked in that night being a very novice worshipper and I walked away from that night with a whole new perspective on what the corporate worship gathering of believers is all about.  And my prayer and I know our staff’s prayer for today is that this would be that, that many of you would walk out of here today with an entirely new perspective on the power, and purpose of corporate worship.  We want today to stay focused on just that Corporate worship, what is happening here, what this event is, the saints of God coming together to worship the living God.

And typically whenever I hear a sermon on worship it is the opposite of this one people will say well you know worship is so much more than singing, it is so much more than what we do in a worship service, typically sermons on worship are from Romans 12:1 – where Paul urges followers of Jesus by the mercies of God to present their whole lives as a living sacrifice before God, that is worship Paul says.  And that is worship, if you have been saved, if you have been purchased by the blood of Christ, then you are no longer your own, we belong to Jesus, we belong to the Father. Our whole lives are for him.  And we need those sermons; we need to be reminded that you were saved for God, not for you, right? So this is really important and I want you to hear this. God didn’t ultimately save you for your sake, he ultimately saved you for his sake, he didn’t save you because he was a worshipper of you, he saved you because he loved you and he is inviting you to be a worshipper of him.  We are loved in salvation, we experience joy in salvation, we experience the blessing, and the mercy of God in salvation, but we are not the ultimate end of our salvation. God is, and so yes our in Christ our whole lives are worship. You were saved to be a worshipper in every aspect of your lives. And who you are and what you do out there will dramatically affect who you are in here. But today, I want to talk about this. This moment, the corporate worship service and the importance of this, and the importance of your involvement specifically in singing.

And I think that it is at least worth asking, why do we sing? Is it just something nice to do? Or is it just something to do to fill time? Or is it more?  To help us with this conversation we want to walk through a key text on worship that we are actually going to be studying for the next several weeks.  It is Ephesians 5:18-19. And if you ever study Paul the guy is always building an argument, so for example he uses the word therefore all of the time because he is always proving something, or he is always building out his point. I love how Paul sets up where he going today.

So verse 18.

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, So Debauchery, overindulgence that is an excessive filling of wine, So do not get drunk do not get drunk but be filled with the Spirit,

 Now here is what I love about this. In order to understand what being filled with the Spirit means he gives us this great analogy.

In other words here is what Paul is saying. When you have too much to drink, it changes you, it alters your behavior, it alters your mind, it alters the decisions you will make, it alters your capability to drive, it alters how you treat people, what you say to people, it alters the way you feel. Getting drunk, excessive drinking is debauchery, it will lead you to sin, it will ruin your life.

So, don’t fill your life with alcohol, but Be Filled with the Holy Spirit.

And verse 18 actually serves as the catapult verse from Ephesians 5:19 all the way through Ephesians 6:9. Everything Paul says in these verses from worship, to thanksgiving, to marriage, to parenting, to work.

What he is saying is that if you are a Christian, if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, your behavior, the way you interact with people, the way you greet people the way you work, everything about you will change.

Just as the man filled with wine acts differently – The Man with the Holy Spirit, the man filled with the Holy Spirit will be different.

So, everything Paul says here from verse 19 – Ephesians 6:9 could be called Evidence of the Spirit Filled Life. How do you know you are filled with the Holy Spirit, because it will show, there will be evidence. So what is the first evidence? What is the first clue that that person is filled with the Holy Spirit?

Verse 19.

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

So I want you to hear this church-The first clue the first sign that Paul gives, that you are full of the Holy Spirit is that you sing, and make melody to the Lord, and address one another in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs. So this is isn’t just something that we like to do, or that is nice to do before the sermon this is something that the Holy Spirit of God is drawing us to do. This is THE evidence of a Spirit Filled Life.

And so just from this one verse we can learn a lot about worship. First of all who is worship directed to?

Well there are two audiences. First of all when we sing, when we worship, we sing to one another. We address one another in Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs. And secondly we sing and make Melody to the Lord.

So we are addressing one another, – reminding one another of the goodness of God, and the hope of salvation, teaching one another the truths of Christianity. And we are in a way that pleases him making Melody to the Lord. Remember you were saved you were called by God not ultimately for your benefit but for his benefit. You were ultimately saved and called by God for God, to be a worshipper.

 So we can learn the audiences of worship but we also learn the tools for worship. So as we address one another and as we sing and make melody to the Lord there are three tools, at least there are three tools listed here that God has given for us to use.  Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.

And so what we are going to do for the rest of our time is to take one of each of these, talk about it, and then sing it. And my hope is that when we sing these things, you knowing a little bit more about these tools will really help you engage with these songs for the glory of Christ, and that you will really worship freely and fully.

So lets begin with a Psalm and we are going to be singing a song that was written from Psalm 103 of course that Jason just quoted for us. And when you look at Psalm 103 at its core I think it teaches us something about worship.

The Psalmist David just begins,

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless or worship his holy name! – I love this Psalm and I think this is a critical Psalm for us because here is David. I mean David, the King, the man after God’s own heart. And in Psalm 103 don’t read it any other way. He does not want to worship, he doesn’t want to give praise to God, he does not want to greet someone with a Psalm, he does not want to sing and make melody to the Lord, and so he is literally commanding his soul to worship God.

Soul, you better bless the Lord. Everything that is within me, you better bless the Lord

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, – in other words bless the Lord, bless the Lord with all of your heart and with all of your might because he is so worthy, do not forget his benefits, do not forget who he is.

3 who forgives all your iniquity, – he is gracious, he sent Jesus to the cross on your behalf to carry your sin and die for you

who heals all your diseases, – he is the great healer and in him, and in him alone can you have real, lasting health.

4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

So be reminded of the wonder and the goodness and the glory of God.  His love is never failing, his mercy is forever, he alone can satisfy you and so soul… Bless the Lord… Bless the Lord. And the Psalmist goes on reminding his soul of the goodness of God and that God is worthy to be praised.


Let’s go ahead and stand up because I want you to feel the weight of this good moment. Because every week, every week from all over the city we come to this place. Recognizing that this week it was the Lord who sustained us and gave us life, it was the Lord who, I don’t know your story, but it was the Lord who saved you, who by the blood of Christ called you from death to life, it was the Lord that healed you, it is the Lord that sustains your life.  Here take a breath, take one breath right now. That is a gift from God the giver of life and everything.
And if you are here and you are a Christian, you are a follower of Jesus you have in this moment joined with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to make so much of Jesus. So I don’t know where you are coming from this morning but in this time and in this place, and in this moment lets demand our souls toward the worship of God.  Bless the Lord my soul, worship the Lord my soul, Praise God my soul because he is worthy. Say to your soul, I don’t care what you feel like but we are going to worship the Lord who is worthy of our praise.

And so the Spirit filled life lets worship him with the Psalms, but we also were given this second tool another really helpful tool and that is a hymn.  Now what is a hymn? And there are a lot of different definitions of a Hymn and what is the difference between a Hymn and Psalm, or for example like the song Joy to the World, is that a hymn or a carol, or is it an expression of Psalm 98?

So when we are singing a Psalm – we are obviously singing a song written from a Psalm.

 When we sing a Hymn – we are singing a song that is not explicitly a psalm but a song that is full of scripture and doctrinal truth. It is the hymns that really teach us. 

In fact I have been asked what are the 5 most influential books in your life, and one that I always mention is the Baptist Hymnal.  These songs that I grew up singing in large part shaped my theology, and in large part framed the way that I understand, who God is and how he works.

I mean I think it was the song Amazing Grace that first made me think of the bigness of eternity.  When we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we have no less days to sing God’s grace than when we first begun.

I remember one time asking my dad what that meant after church and I was like 7. And he said, the song means that 10,000 years is like a second in Heaven. And that blew me away, because I was 7, and even 1 year felt like a long time.  My birthday is in January and so when I was a kid I got all of my presents within like a one month period with Christmas and my birthday so every year I was having to wait like 11 months all the time to get presents again and that seemed like forever.  So 10,000 of those, and that is just like a second in Heaven… See? Hymns do a good job of teaching doctrine of really framing how we understand who God is and how he works.

So today we sang a Psalm and we are going to sing a hymn. And here I think is a common mistake that people make, hymn’s aren’t just old.  There are modern hymns, in fact a lot of the songs that are being written today are hymns. The Power of the Cross for example by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty – so that song does a great job of teaching what has been won for us by the power of the Cross of Jesus.

Another modern hymn for example is Jesus Son of God by Chris Tomlin, great song, and it does a great job teaching Christology and the incarnation what Jesus has done.

So there are a lot of new hymns and there are a lot of old hymns.  And probably my favorite hymn writers a group of men wrote in the 18th century. Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, William Cowper, John Newton, and Joseph Hart among others, John Rippon.  It was a great time for hymn writing, but it is actually a 19th century hymn that we are going to sing today. Its called Nothing But the Blood and again it teaches, it instructs, and it points to who God is and how he works. And this is a song that many of you have sang before but do you realize what you are singing?

What can wash away my sin – So what is it that forgives sin, what can get rid of this sin in my life? Is it doing enough good works, is it beating my own body, is it doing some sort of penance, or praying a lot of prayers, or praying one really good prayer…

So what can wash away my sin?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

What can make me whole again? – So what can restore my damaged soul? It is Jesus, it the blood of Jesus who reminds us over and over and over again how deeply we are loved.  You want to be fixed up, you want to be changed, you want to be made right? Be reminded that you are loved.  Remember the Cross, remember that God loved you like that, God sent his son for you.

And so the song goes into this wonderful refrain, that was written so the singer could meditate on the love of God displayed in the blood of Christ…

Oh! precious is the flow. That makes me white as snow; No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

 So you see we aren’t just singing.  This isn’t just a song that we like.  Paige and I went to see the Dave Matthews Band on Friday night and it was a lot of fun and Dave sings a lot of songs that I know well and that I really like.  But that isn’t worship. It’s fun, it’s a good time, and I love music.  And God gave us music for a lot of reasons, but he gave us Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs for worship, so that we could connect with him, and know him and be one with him… See? So that we could remind one another of his awesomeness and so we could sing and make melody to him.

 And we need this truth, and we need to sing this truth. Because it is only the blood of Jesus that can make us clean, but that blood had been shed and it is flowing for you and for me, if you believe in him, if you trust in him. And when you do oh when you do it is a precious flow, that will make you white as snow. You need this fountain. So lets stand and sing in faith, like you really do need it and like you really do mean it.

Today has been fun, and look we have just sung two songs, but I hope you are approaching those songs with a heart of worship like you mean to be here, like you mean to worship and like you long to press into God and actually experience more of God.  So God has given us the tools of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.

And Psalms as we said are Psalms. While most of the Bible is written to us, the Psalms are written for us. Hymns are songs full of scripture aimed at teaching us deep doctrinal truth. And Spiritual Songs are songs that are full of truth but they are written as a way to express one’s heart.  This is my heart, this is what I need to express right now. I am overflowing and I want to say these things to the Lord and to other people about the Lord.

I remember when I was falling in love with Paige, I was just so overcome with affection for her, and joy in her that I would just sit there and think of ways to express it.  It was like my heart was so full I couldn’t get the words out, there was so much I wanted to say.

That is what a spiritual song is. Your heart is so full of love for God, you have seen in a big way all that God has done for you, you have felt the depth of the cross, and you have seen the heights of his glory, and you just need to say it. And so spiritual songs are that.

One that we have been singing lately is Here’s my Heart Lord. Not a lot of theology, but sometimes I just need to say to God, Here is my Heart Here is My Life. And that all by itself is so beneficial for my soul.

And so the Spiritual Song we are going to sing today is called Great I Am.

And again there is clearly Biblical truth and imagery in the song, but it is more so an expression of the soul.

I want to be close, close to Your side
the song says.
I want to be near, near to Your heart
Loving the world and hating the dark
I want to see dry bones living again
Singing as one

Hallelujah, holy, holy… God Almighty, the great I AM… Who is worthy, none beside Thee

Look if you are a Christian, if you have been by the Grace of God been called to be child of God, well then friend I invite you to stand and express yourself, bear your soul to God, and let this moment be a picture of what the Kingdom of God is going to be like.  Let this moment be a picture of what a worship service will look like when we are in the physical presence of Jesus singing around his eternal throne. How do you think you will worship then? Worship like that now, he is still listening, and he is no less worthy right now than he will then. So lets let this moment stir our souls and change us for the glory of God.


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