This will be our final article on Private Worship - The Key to Joy. I pray the Lord has used these articles to stimulate you not only to "do your own homework" in the subject of worship, as my Chuck always says, but also to prompt you to begin your own daily time of intimacy with the Lord.
As we learned at the beginning of these articles, worship is the single most important thing a Christian can learn to do. Why? First of all, Scripture tells us that we become "like" what we worship (Psalm 135:18). Thus, if we want to become more Christ-like, we must learn to worship Him more. Worship is also important because it's the key to the Lord's presence and His joy (Psalm 16:11). And, finally, worship is important because it's the means by which we receive His strength to endure all that He allows in our lives (Nehemiah 8:10).
Worship, then, is really a two-way communication. We come into the Lord's presence by loving, adoring and exalting Him. He, then, makes Himself known by communicating His Love back to us. This, of course, results in inexpressible joy. This daily communion is what allows us to endure difficult circumstances. If we are hearing from the Lord, we can withstand anything. Thus, worship is the key to intimacy, the key to withstanding trials and the key to restoring the joy of our salvation. It is the most important thing a Christian can learn to do.
I truly believe if the body of Christ was really taught how to genuinely worship, it would revolutionize the church. Noah worshiped the Lord and, as a result, a brand new creation was born. Abraham built an altar and worshiped the Lord and a whole nation resulted. Moses worshiped the Lord and, because of his obedience, God freed an entire people from bondage. Men and women who truly learn to worship can change the world.
Worship involves all of our mental, emotional and spiritual facilities, but the specific place we worship and express our love to the Lord is in our spirit. John 4:23-24 validates this, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."
One of the definitions of the word joy is "to join or to become one with." Joy, then, is the result of the union and the communion of our spirits. It's the result of coming into God's presence, catching on fire with His Love and being consumed by it.
Consequently, worship is not something we do just on Sundays or in church, but something we must learn to do every day, all day long. Again, look at the lives of Moses, Elijah, Samuel, Jeremiah, Daniel, Isaiah, John and Paul. These men didn't restrict their worship to just one day a week. No, they worship and loved the Lord continually, every day, all day long. And, as a result, some of them came to know the Lord "face to face," some were given incredible dreams and visions and the glory of the Lord was seen in all of their lives.
As we learned last month, however, worshiping the Lord on a daily basis does not preclude our having more trials and temptations, but in fact necessitates it. Experiencing deeper consecration to the Lord usually requires even more refining. Our crown is always gained through the cross. The pattern seems clear: first, we are approved of by God; then we are tempted by many trials and tribulations; and finally, we receive our crown. If we know how to enter the Lord's presence and worship Him in the midst of our suffering, then we will receive "beauty for ashes" and the "oil of joy instead of mourning." (Isaiah 61:3)
Now more than ever before, we need to sanctify the Lord in the eyes of others. This simply means we must rejoice in the middle of our trials, so that Jesus will be glorified. Not hyping it up, but because of the intimacy we are experiencing with Him, letting that genuine joy show forth. God's Word promises that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us, but that He will be at our right hand helping us through and bringing us to victory. If we really believe this, then we must walk it out. In other words, we must show others by our actions exactly what we believe. Our only responsibility is to trust the Lord enough during our trials to demonstrate His Life through us.
David Wilkerson comments on this in one of his recent newsletters. He says that no matter where we are in our walk with the Lord, we must "make a joyful noise unto Him." (Psalm 66:1; 98:4-6) He says if we don't, "the very stones [themselves] will cry out." (Luke 19:40)
The essence of worship, then, is really self-abasement and humility. This does not mean putting ourselves down in a self-condemning way, but simply not thinking about ourselves at all. Humility is the ability to see ourselves as we truly are, which then leaves us free to get excited about the triumphs of others and love them as God desires. Humility is putting Christ and what He wants first. It's putting away all self-seeking, self-promotion and self-preservation. We are to exalt Christ and Him alone. Humility, thus, is the mark of a true worshiper.
If you take a look at some of the people in the Bible whom the Lord used in magnificent ways (Noah, Moses, Peter, Joseph, David, etc.), you will find a common thread among them. He often chose the weakest and the lowliest of men. This is still true today. God's standard of spirituality is measured by meekness, not power. Of course, the world and the devil try to constantly whisper otherwise, but meekness and humility always foil their plans.
The Glory of God
Throughout Scripture, we see God's pattern of abasement and then exultation. John 12:24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." In Revelation, God promises that those who "overcome" the world, the flesh and the devil, will inherit the morning star. (Revelation 2:26-28) This simply represents Christ's visible outward glory, which is a symbol of His hidden inward purity.
Remember the story of Moses in Exodus 34:33-34. His encounter with the Lord on Mount Sinai so radically changed him that his face shone with the glory of God. Glory is the result of being in the Lord's presence. We not only receive fullness of joy from being before Him, but also His glory will be reflected through our countenance. Scripture validates this, "Those who look to Him for help will be radiant." (Psalm 34:5 Living Translation)
Paul talks about this in Galatians 1:15-16, when he says that God called him from birth to "reveal [or to glorify] His Son" in him. Paul is saying here that as Jesus becomes our life itself, when others look at us they will see Christ's reflection, just as they did in Moses. We will reflect His image. A person's countenance is the outward expression of what is in his heart. Moses simply reflected externally the glory of God that he was experiencing internally. And the same experience can be true of us also. The more we are with the Lord, the more of His glory we will reflect.
Jesus is the full revelation of God's glory and if He abides in us, that glory is going to shine forth in our lives also. Jesus wants to express His glory through us. We are His arms and legs. Now, others might not see our face shining as they did Moses, but they should, at least, see something in our countenance that reflects Christ's character.
It's interesting because the very first time Moses saw God's glory was the first time he worshiped Him. (Exodus 34:6-8) Thus, there is a connection between the revelation of His glory and worshiping Him. Experiencing God's glory not only changes us - from glory to glory - it also changes our worship of Him.
In the temple, the place where God's glory was manifested was at the Incense Altar, which sat directly before the Mercy Seat. As we said earlier, this altar was considered to be a part of the Holy of Holies, but actually stood in the Holy Place. It was called "the altar before the Lord." (Revelation 8:3) After the incense was offered, the Shekinah Glory would come forth from the Holy of Holies, commingle with the perfumed cloud of incense, and then arise and fill the temple. The priest would then fall on his face and worship the Lord.
This is a visual picture of what happens when we humble ourselves and worship the Lord at the Incense Altar of our hearts. We not only become one spirit with Him, but the glory of God fills the temple of our body. In the perilous times ahead, Scripture tells us that God's glory will be our defense, our covering and our protection. His glory will shelter us from the intense trouble that is to come upon the earth. Once again, God will put His pillar of cloud and fire over His Church for comfort and for direction. "The Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory shall be a defense." (Isaiah 4:5-6)
Walking with the Lord
Worship involves companionship, communion, fellowship, mutual delight and decision making. These are the things that build a firm foundation so that we are able to "walk with the Lord," share His heart and enjoy Him as a friend. Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham all "walked with the Lord." (Genesis 5:22; 6:9) Each humbly sought His presence and the Lord rewarded them by revealing His glory.
Scripture says that Enoch never performed anything spectacular or noteworthy. Yet, the Word tells us
Likewise, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord and thus, the Lord shared His heart with Him. And, of course, Scripture records that Abraham was the Lord's "friend." (James 2:23; Isaiah 41:8) As David Wilkerson puts it, "to have the Creator of the Universe call you His friend seems almost beyond human comprehension."
Worship is the only place that a firm foundation for a "walking relationship" can be built. As Bob Sorge says, "We must develop a secret history with God before He gives us a public one."
In conclusion, if you have identified with some of the things that have been shared in these article: if you, too, have lost the joy of your salvation; if you, too, have never really understood what true "worship" is; and if you, too, have longed to be consumed in God's Love and His presence, then I urge you to put into practice what it means to personally worship the Lord. I assure you it will change your life and become the most important part of your entire day.
I now understand what Psalm 65:4 means when it says, "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest and causeth to approach unto Thee; that he may dwell in Thy courts..." or, as the Living Translation says, "What joy awaits us inside Your Holy Temple!" The Lord is waiting there to give us the "oil of joy" and the "glory of His presence." (Isaiah 61:3) Worship is the key to experiencing His presence, to knowing the indescribable joy of our salvation, and to reflecting His glory. Isaiah 56:7 tells us that the Lord will, "Bring us to His holy mountain and make us joyful..." Or as the Living translation says, "Fill [us] with joy in [His] house of prayer."
Again, worship is a two-way communication. We give the Lord our worship and our love. He then gives us His joy, His glory and, of course, His Love. Worship flows from our love of Him; joy and glory come from His Love towards us. Thus, regardless of what is going on in our lives, if we choose to humble ourselves, worship and adore Him, He will align our feelings with our faith choices, make His presence known, and then, fill us with His joy. (Psalm 71) This is what gives us hope - hope that He still cares and that He is intimately concerned about every single detail of our lives.
The Ultimate Experience
The greatest experience the world has to offer is human love and, of course, its expression in the sexual act. The world tells us that this is what will bring us "happiness" and fulfillment. Consequently, everyone is running around frantically searching for this "ultimate experience."
Now, human love is wonderful and for those of us fortunate enough to have experienced it, it is euphoric and it is great. But, this in itself does not bring us happiness, joy or fulfillment! Look at all the people in the world who are known to have had phenomenal and public love affairs, innumerable sexual encounters and multiple marriages, but many of whom are still unfulfilled and still searching. Did that ultimate expression of worldly love bring them happiness? Apparently not! They're still looking for it!
The Creator of the Universe, the One who designed us in the first place, has planned something far greater for those who seek Him with all their hearts. He tells us that only in His presence is true happiness; only in His presence is complete fulfillment; and only in His presence is fullness of joy. (And, we don't have to wait until we get to heaven in order to taste this.) By learning to worship Him in the Spirit - not just on Sundays in church, but privately at home - every day, we will be able to experience the fulfillment and the joy that the world and everyone in it is so desperately searching for, but very few seem to have found.
Truly, private worship is the key to joy and happiness!
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This article has been excerpted, in part, from Nan's book Private Worship: The Key to Joy. See here for details and other products from The King's High Way. Next month we'll start a new series called Never Give Up!