LESSON 1: THE HEART OF WORSHIP
MAIN IDEA: Worship is the key to experiencing God in our lives.
There is a real hunger in the church today—a growing hunger to know and experience God in a personal way. Truth is, we were created to know God in this way—to have a relationship with God. He made us this way because He has desired an intimate relationship with us from the beginning of time.
God Desires a Relationship with Us All lasting relationships are based on mutual interest, trust, and understanding. By choosing to create us in His image—with a mind (the ability to reason), a will, and emotions—and by providing everything we need for life, God created and equipped us for a lasting relationship with Him.
From beginning to end, the Bible makes it clear: God desires a relationship with us. He wants us to know who He is, who we are in relationship to Him, how we should respond, and what we can anticipate in return. We will examine these aspects of God’s desire and plan for relationship with us in greater detail in this class, but for now, consider what these verses tell us:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” John 15:5
“In a little while the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live too. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you.” John 14:19-20
This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given to us from His Spirit. And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 1 John 4:13-15
These few Scriptures alone leave no room for doubt: God loves us and deeply desires a personal relationship with each of us, and all we have to do is respond! God wants to reveal Himself and His will in every situation of our lives, and as we respond we can experience God each and every day as He works through us to accomplish His will.
Worship Is the Key to Experiencing God A number of years ago, Henry Blackaby and Claude King provided us with wonderful insights and principles on how to experience God and discover His will in our everyday lives. Their bestselling workbook Experiencing God, gave us clear instruction to help us fulfill our purpose on the earth: see what God is doing around you and join Him as He works through you. It all begins with God’s offer of a personal and intimate relationship. And as we respond, we really can experience God!
Experiencing God delivered a tried and proven message for the church, and I’ve seen the results in an up close and personal way. You see, I’ve spent my entire adult life serving in churches, from some of the smallest to the largest churches in America, and I’ve seen many of God’s people embrace God’s mission for their lives—the plans God prepared for them before they were even born. I’ve also seen many, many others miss their opportunity to experience God.
For years I wondered what it would take for more of God’s church—ordinary folks like you and me—to fully embrace His love for us, step beyond our distractions and doubts, and truly join God as He works right where we live. I believe with all my heart that the key to breakthrough, the key to experiencing God in our own lives and having a personal relationship with Him, is found in developing a lifestyle of worship. How would you define or explain a “lifestyle of worship”?
We are His creation— created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1
Worship Is Our Response to God’s Revelation I love “The Andy Griffith Show.” Like so many others, I have learned a great deal about life watching the reruns of this old program. In one episode, Deputy Barney Fife starts dabbling in psychology and decides to try his hand with the town drunk, Otis. After showing Otis a series of inkblot cards and noting his responses, a bewildered Barney covers his lack of discovery from the process by proclaiming, “I hate to think what you just revealed about yourself, Otis!”
Barney didn’t have a clue what those inkblot cards revealed, but our God has given us a clear revelation of who He is and what He has done—and we don’t have to study inkblots to figure it out! Throughout our study, we will use this working definition of worship: Worship is our response to God’s revelation of who He is and what He has done.
[Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15
Simply stated, we are called to respond to all that God has revealed about Himself and to His never-ending desire to enter a deeper relationship with each of us. Through the ages, God has been in the constant process of revealing His character and essence. Yes, God is mysterious in many ways, but He is never a mystery. He has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself throughout history—including sending His Son, Jesus, into the world—and He continues to reveal Himself today in a variety of ways: God reveals Himself in creation. God reveals Himself through His Word. God reveals Himself through the Holy Spirit.
God created us for relationship with Him and deeply desires to reveal Himself—who He is and what He has done—to us. He has promised to meet us as we worship. In fact, as we understand and embrace all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus, our only reasonable and adequate response is worship. Our response to God always requires faith and corresponding action, yet God never forces us to respond; it is always our choice. How has God revealed Himself to you? What were both the immediate and long-term ways in which you responded to these revelations?
Worship Invites God’s Presence As Blackaby and King emphasize in Experiencing God, God deeply desires a personal relationship with each one of us and is at work around us at all times. Just as God fellowshipped and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, so He desires to fellowship and communicate with each of us. God has promised in Psalm 22:3 to inhabit the praises of His people, and God is always true to His promises. Our worship provides a place of meeting with God—a place for us to encounter His very presence and embrace His invitation to join Him as He works.
As we focus our time and attention on the Lord in worship, proclaim His place of honor in our lives, and thank and praise God for His eternal promises in our lives, we can expect God to intervene in our circumstances. God has promised to inhabit our worship, and He will. And when the King is present, all things are possible!
That’s why we must worship through the good times and the bad—when we’re waiting for God’s merciful touch in our circumstances and when we’re standing in awe of His power at work around us. Worship invites God’s presence, enabling us to experience God in our lives.
God’s Word is filled with example after example of those who responded to God’s revelation with worship and experienced Him. You’ll find their names throughout Scripture—names such as Abraham, David, Daniel (and his friends), Mary, Joseph, Peter, Paul, and so many more. As we study together, we will soon understand how absolutely vital worship was in their lives. These great Bible heroes had a clear revelation of God—of who He is and what He has done. They responded to that revelation with worship, and they experienced the presence and power of God in their lives. Their lives are confirmation: you and I can experience God in worship!
Psalm 22:3 is a cornerstone verse for our study. Many times it is helpful to look at a passage of Scripture in different translations to fully grasp the meaning of each word or phrase.
• Thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3, KJV • You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3, NKJV • You are holy, O You Who dwell in [the holy place where] the praises of Israel [are offered]. Psalm 22:3, AMP
Let’s take a look at the meaning of several key words in that passage from the King James Version, the New King James Version, and the Amplified Bible. Holy— sacred, spiritually pure, sinless, deserving deep respect and awe Inhabit—to live in Enthroned—placed on a throne and exalted
Our God does indeed deserve our deep respect, awe, and worship! And He has promised His holy presence as we worship. Simply put, our worship expression creates a “place” for us to encounter and experience God.
As we study together, you will be encouraged and released to offer up your own unique expression of worship—an expression of appreciation, adoration, desperation, and expectation that is reserved deep within you for God and God alone. Whether your worship tradition includes three verses and a chorus, liturgical litanies, a capella hymns, banners and dance, or loud, exuberant praise, God is waiting to hear from you. And as you respond to His great love and sacrifice for you—whether you are worshiping corporately or in the privacy of your own home—you will experience God. He is ready, willing, and able to meet you right where you are as you enter into worship.
LESSON 1 REVIEW • What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful? An example is, “Worship is my response to God’s revelation, and He always wants me to know Him more intimately.” • Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response. For example, “Lord, I want to know You more—I want more revelation of who You are—and I commit to listen for Your voice more intently throughout the day.” • What does God want you to do in response to this lesson? For example, “He wants me to really focus on who He is and what He has done as I am worshiping—to change my perspective.”