Worship isn’t really about instruments

About a year ago I found myself having to lead (that’s loosely put) worship in a small community house. As far as I could see it required a certain degree of confidence in singing and playing the guitar. Neither of which I had. In fact growing up going to church I would often ‘mouth’ the words to songs just to look like I was singing. Anyway, I accepted the challenge, drew the short straw and grabbed a guitar. It was a painfully embarrassing experience.

Although it was very humbling at first, over time I began to discover what it means to engage with God on spirit level. I understood that singing and playing guitar was not the most crucial part of worship.

By ‘worship’ I mean our reverence and adoration for God. Although the end product is expressed outwardly, true worship begins with our inner spirit.

“God is Spirit, and we must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

In my exploration of worship, I read a great quote which is credited to C.S. Lewis. “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

In his book Spiritual Man, Watchman Nee expands on this and describes us consisting of three parts:

  • Body (outward physical) touch, smell, sight, etc. Earth-bound.
  • Soul (or heart) mind, will and emotion.
  • Spirit (breath of God in us) made in the image of our Spirit God. Heaven-bound.

That was the key. I needed to encourage the heaven-bound part of us to connect with Father God.

To receive the Holy Spirit of God we need to set our mind, will and emotions on Jesus who has saved us. I realised it was daily life attitude and commitment. Get this wrong and suddenly when we gather together the connection is lacking. God acts according to the heart towards Him.

It was good to understand these basics as I learned to sing or confess in my own words my feelings towards God. Worship is about daily heart attitude and response to God. We should be able to do this whenever.

Our heart (or soul) consisting of our mind, will and emotions seeks spirit life. The earth bound seeks the sinful flesh life. When we stopped walking with God at the beginning our sin began to worship ourselves. Be our own god. Live for the instant pleasure. But our reborn spirit is drawn to the Holy Spirit of God. To hold deep reverence and adoration to God and all that it brings. To worship.

One of the early stories from the Bible features Cain and his brother Abel in their sacrifice (or worship) to God. God then acts according to the heart attitudes shown towards Him (Genesis 4). Cain’s sinful mind, will and emotions end up in the murder of his brother. God can see the heart of a person and acts accordingly. It will always be this way.

Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David, Peter… the Bible is full of stories of God using imperfect people with big hearts. Samuel the prophet is sent to anoint a king.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’.”
(1 Samuel 16:7)

David is chosen instead of his brother; although Davis was still sinful like us, he had a good heart. This meant he trusted and turned to God in his sin.

This applies to worship, not received by outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. Sometimes it is hard to meet God when all you feel or see is pain. That’s fine. Like the tax collector and Pharisee in the book of Luke, reverence of God will mean we meet Him with our heart. Jesus our Saviour hears us.

As you come to worship, what is the condition of your heart? Has your mind been thinking of Jesus? Is your will focused on God? Are your emotions responding to the Holy Spirit? The presence of God will reveal the answer.

Actions not backed up by heart are a clanging symbol in the ear of God. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

So what did I learn about encouraging people to worship?

  • Start with myself. Check the condition of my heart. Worship is affected by my daily choices and actions.
  • Worry less about outward and more about inward.
  • Seek genuine and reverent worship.
  • Focus on Jesus. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)
  • Praise, grieve, cry, rap… just express something because body, soul and spirit are closely joined.

To finish, here’s Ezekiel giving an explanation of Jerusalem’s fall:

“As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. When this comes—and come it will!—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
(Ezekiel 33:30)


If you’ve got to the end of this article and you’re thinking “yes, but…” or “no, because…” write your “yes but” or “no because” in the comments below.

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