Lesson 4 Worshiping Together – The Corporate Worship Service

MAIN IDEA: Four key parts of the worship service and one special element of worship can help us to express our worship.

As we have seen, music is a crucial part of the corporate worship service. Much more than a longstanding tradition, music fulfills a specific, God-ordained purpose in worship: it proclaims God’s power, presence, and Word — preparing the hearts of His people to receive Him. Music is a vital element in many parts of the worship service, yet there is much more to the service.

Dr. Robert Webber, one of the most highly regarded teachers on worship of our day, breaks the worship service into four major or distinct parts:
• The Coming In
• The Proclamation of the Word
• The Table of the Lord
• The Going Out

The Coming In
As we come into the sanctuary, we are literally and figuratively setting ourselves apart from the world. If you’ve ever tried to get a family of toddlers or teenagers to church on time, you understand how “worldly” Sunday mornings can be!

We have been out in the world all week long, so to speak. Now, we are coming into the house of God to encounter the King of kings. We sing at the beginning of the worship service because music and musicians were created to precede the power, presence, and Word of God. We sing as we separate ourselves from the world in order to prepare our hearts to encounter His presence.

What happens to you personally — mentally, physically, and spiritually — as you begin to worship through singing in a church service?

In addition to singing, we also pray and read Scripture during this part of the worship service. The Coming In is our opportunity to fully turn our attention to the Lord — not something to get out of the way so that we can get on to the sermon! Once the coming in — the separating from the world — has occurred, we are ready to proceed with the worship service.

The Proclamation of the Word
The second part of the worship service is the proclamation of the Word of God. Have you ever noticed that a service of praise music without some proclamation of the Word just seems incomplete? That’s because it is incomplete. Music was created to precede the Word, not to replace it. When we gather in God’s name without the reading or the preaching of the Word, the worship service is incomplete.

Jesus will always be the cornerstone of our worship; He is the Living Word of God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. John 1:1-3

Our understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done is determined by teaching and preaching from the written Word of God. As we grasp the depth of His sacrifice and His promises to those who believe, our worship expression will increase in consistency and freedom — and our lives will continue to be changed forever.

The Table of the Lord
The table of the Lord is given as a visible reminder of God’s eternal sacrifice in Christ Jesus. The Lord’s table must never become a ritual or just a tradition. It is a vital and crucial worship expression. The shed blood and broken body of our Lord will never lose its power.

Whether we call it the Lord’s table, the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, the Lord’s table continues to unite us. Whether we observe it weekly, monthly, or every now and then, remembering the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ is crucial to our worship. Jesus is the full revelation of God, and He initiates our response of worship. Jesus has been the center point of worship for the church throughout the centuries for good reason, and the table of the Lord brings our entire focus back to Him — inspiring further worship and proclamation of His gospel!

The Table of the Lord is observed at different times during the worship service and with different frequency throughout the Body of Christ. Whenever it occurs in the service, remembering the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ is indeed crucial to our worship.

The Going Out
The worship service concludes with the going out. This is a crucial part of the worship service during which we now precede the Word of God out into the world in which we live.

We have separated ourselves for a time to receive the Word and the table. Now it is time for us to take that Word back into our homes, schools, offices, and neighborhoods. We often sing as we go. We also pray as we go. We have been reminded of the great blessing and favor God has brought in our lives, and now it’s time take His presence everywhere we go. We are the body of Christ and the light unto the world:

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

During these four key parts of the worship service, we experience many biblical elements of worship — prayer, praise, thanksgiving, charity/giving, confession, preaching and teaching, and Scripture reading, to name a few. All of these are appropriate and necessary elements of the worship service which you most likely experience on a regular basis. But there is one other central expression of worship that, although it may not be a regular part of the weekly worship service, can never be overlooked: baptism!

Baptism: A Central Expression of Worship
No other worship expression of the church captures the essence of our Christian journey quite like baptism. It is indeed the visible demonstration of the grace gift of salvation and the Great Exchange — our total immersion into the life of Jesus that He has given in exchange for our life of sin. Baptism should be a time of great joy, celebration, and worship.

Not long ago, my coauthor Stan told me about one of the most amazing worship services I’ve ever heard of, and baptism was the focus. Stan and his wife, Sue, stood for over five hours one Sunday morning worshiping, watching, and rejoicing as over 400 people entered the waters of baptism! The room was simply electric with the presence of the Lord, as you can imagine.

Individuals, couples, and entire families made a public declaration that day — their lives had been immersed with Christ, and all things were new! I grew up with somber baptism services, and Stan’s description helped to reinforce the reality that baptism is an act of exuberant and joy-filled worship. “Listen in” as he describes the experience:

The singers and musicians surrounded the pool. They sang, they cheered, and they led us all in worship as we witnessed this unique worship expression of so many people. Those who entered the water that day came with great expectation and joy! They symbolically left their old sin patterns, addictions, and failures “dead” in the pool that day. They believed that God is indeed faithful, and they arose from the waters as new creations.

Words could never describe the effects of our collision of faith and expectation with the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the sanctuary that day. Those 400 dear saints had a revelation of who God is and what He had done — and nothing could stop them from expressing their deep gratitude to God as they experienced baptism. And as they honored God with their lives, we were all changed.

After reading this amazing account of the baptism service, don’t you want to stop and worship God for the gift of your own salvation? I know I do! Think of a recent baptism service at your church. What made it memorable for you? Did you consider it an act of worship at the time?

You see, there really is a Redeemer. He is holy and just, faithful and true. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness, and it cost Him life itself. He has given us the freedom to respond to His great grace by exchanging our flawed and failed lives for His life of liberty and victory over sin and death! We are the redeemed, and God’s love and sacrifice for us know no limits. Once we truly understand this, there should be no limit to our expression of worship. He alone is worthy!

Read More About
John the Baptist baptizes in the wilderness: Luke 3:1-6
Jesus is baptized: Matt. 3:13-17
Buried and raised with Christ: Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 2:11-1

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Lesson 3 The True Worship Leader

MAIN IDEA: God created singers and musicians to be “lead worshipers,” but the pastor is the true worship leader.

As we have seen, singers and musicians play a crucial part in preparing the people to express their hearts in worship and receive the power, presence, and Word of God. We commonly refer to the leader of a group of worshipers as the worship leader. However, we must be careful not to overlook the true worship leader. Consider these two examples from the Old Testament:

David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring the ark of the LORD to the place he had prepared for it. Then David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their relatives as singers and to have them raise their voices with joy accompanied by musical instruments — harps, lyres, and cymbals. 1 Chronicles 15:3,16

At that time Solomon assembled at Jerusalem the elders of Israel — all the tribal heads, the ancestral chiefs of the Israelites — in order to bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD up from the city of David, that is, Zion. … . Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in front of the entire congregation of Israel … . When Solomon finished praying, fire descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 Chronicles 5:2; 6:12; 7:1

The model God gave us for worship includes a major role for the singers and musicians. But the true worship leader in each of these instances was the one who presided over the whole event. In the first example, the worship leader was King David; in the second, the worship leader was King Solomon. Presiding over such gatherings was part of the king’s role as the spiritual leader of the nation of Israel. Similarly, the one who presides over the worship service today should be the spiritual leader of the congregation.

The Pastor as Worship Leader
We commonly refer to the music leader or minister of music as the worship leader, but the true worship leader is the spiritual leader of the church: the pastor. Every part of the worship service must be under the pastor’s authority and direction. The pastor is the one who is charged by God with the overall welfare of God’s precious lambs, including God’s servant who is in charge of the music.

Singers and musicians have a very specific purpose in worship: to prepare our hearts to receive the Word. They are created and called to be “lead worshipers,” and that is a crucial role in the worship life of the church. But again, it is the pastor who is the true leader in worship. When this distinction is clearly understood, the congregation benefits greatly.

I have served in full-time worship ministry in seven churches across the southern part of the United States; and now as Director of Worship for LifeWay Christian Resources, I regularly attend worship services and interact with pastors and music leadership across the country. One thing I have observed is that when the pastor and music minister or leader understand who is the true worship leader and work together, walking in unity, the songs selected for a worship service support and strengthen the Word of God that is preached or taught in the service. And when this happens, the congregation indeed benefits greatly!

Let’s read 1 Chronicles 6:
They brought the ark of God and placed it inside the tent David had pitched for it. Then they offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings in God’s presence. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of Yahweh. Then he distributed to each and every Israelite, both men and women, a loaf of bread, a date cake, and a raisin cake. David appointed some of the Levites to be ministers before the ark of the Lord, to celebrate the Lord God of Israel, and to give thanks and praise to Him. Asaph was the chief and Zechariah was second to him. Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel played the harps and lyres, while Asaph sounded the cymbals and the priests Benaiah and Jahaziel blew the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God.

David’s Psalm of Thanksgiving
On that day David decreed for the first time that thanks be given to the Lord by Asaph and his relatives:
Give thanks to Yahweh; call on His name;
proclaim His deeds among the peoples.
Sing to Him; sing praise to Him;
tell about all His wonderful works!
Honor His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek Yahweh rejoice.
Search for the Lord and for His strength;
seek His face always.
Remember the wonderful works He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments He has pronounced, 
you offspring of Israel His servant,
Jacob’s descendants—His chosen ones.

He is the Lord our God;
His judgments govern the whole earth.
Remember His covenant forever—
the promise He ordained for a thousand generations,
the covenant He made with Abraham,
swore to Isaac,
and confirmed to Jacob as a decree,
and to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
“I will give the land of Canaan to you
as your inherited portion.”
When they were few in number,
very few indeed, and temporary residents in Canaan
wandering from nation to nation
and from one kingdom to another,
He allowed no one to oppress them;
He rebuked kings on their behalf:
“Do not touch My anointed ones
or harm My prophets.”

Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Proclaim His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonderful works among all peoples.
For the Lord is great and highly praised;
He is feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens. 
Splendor and majesty are before Him;
strength and joy are in His place.
Ascribe to the Lord, families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to Yahweh the glory of His name;
bring an offering and come before Him.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness;
tremble before Him, all the earth.

The world is firmly established;
it cannot be shaken.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The Lord is King!”
Let the sea and everything in it resound;
let the fields and all that is in them exult.
Then the trees of the forest will shout for joy before the Lord,
for He is coming to judge the earth.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His faithful love endures forever.
And say: “Save us, God of our salvation;
gather us and rescue us from the nations
so that we may give thanks to Your holy name
and rejoice in Your praise.
May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised
from everlasting to everlasting.”
Then all the people said, “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.”

So David left Asaph and his relatives there before the ark of the Lord’s covenant to minister regularly before the ark according to the daily requirements. He assigned Obed-edom and his 68 relatives. Obed-edom son of Jeduthun and Hosah were to be gatekeepers. David left Zadok the priest and his fellow priests before the tabernacle of the Lord at the high place in Gibeon to offer burnt offerings regularly, morning and evening, to the Lord on the altar of burnt offerings and to do everything that was written in the law of the Lord, which He had commanded Israel to keep. With them were Heman, Jeduthun, and the rest who were chosen and designated by name to give thanks to the Lord—for His faithful love endures forever. Heman and Jeduthun had with them trumpets and cymbals to play and musical instruments of God. Jeduthun’s sons were at the gate. Then all the people left for their homes, and David returned home to bless his household.

Can you see in this chapter that David, God’s appointed leader, was in charge of the whole worship service (which lasted for several days)? The singers and musicians were crucial to the service. They were the lead worshipers. But the Ark of the Covenant — the resident place of the power, presence, and Word of God — was the centerpiece of worship. And the musicians were clearly directed by the true worship leader: King David.

I often explain the contemporary corporate worship experience this way: the pastor is to the worship service what the mother of the bride is to the wedding ceremony. If you’ve been to more than one wedding, you know what I mean. We all take our cues from the mother of the bride. When she stands, we stand. When she sits, we sit. When she leaves, we follow.

In the same way, members of the congregation take “worship cues” from the pastor. When the pastor is a worshiper and understands his role as worship leader, there is great freedom in worship.

Tom McCoy is such a pastor. Tom is the pastor of the church Teresa and I currently attend, Thompson Station Church. Tom and his wife, Leighann, have served the church for nearly 20 years. They started with a congregation of about 20 people; and when Teresa and I joined a few years ago, we became part of a church family of about 2,000 people.

Tom truly understands his role as worship leader. Although we have a wonderful music program with great music leadership, I believe the key to this lies in the fact that Tom is a worshiper. I enjoy being in services with Tom because I know he is going to worship. Whether he is on the front row or on the platform, Tom’s response to God’s revelation is clear: he worships! And we all follow his lead. His response to God brings great freedom to all of us.

I love attending worship services where the pastor and music leadership — the “lead worshipers” — are moving in unity. The impact on the congregation is obvious when leaders understand their God-given roles in the worship service. When they do, God’s people truly are the beneficiaries.

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Lesson 4 The Passageway to the Heart

MAIN IDEA: God calls us to love others by sharing His Word.

As we learned yesterday, we are commanded to love others, and one of the best ways we love others is to share God’s Word with them. As we speak or sing the Word of God, we and others around us hear that Word proclaimed. And as each of us hears the Word, faith begins to rise in our hearts:

Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. Romans 10:17

The ear really is the passageway to the heart. As we speak words of faith and grace to one another, the faith that is birthed and nurtured in our hearts by those words overflows to those around us. Then we begin to speak that Word which has been planted by grace in our hearts. It is true: what is in our hearts determines what comes out of our mouths:

“The mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil.” Matthew 12:34-35

It is up to all of us to see that our hearts are filled with words of faith, hope, and love! One of the best ways to fill our hearts with words of faith, hope, and love is to worship. Our worship expression makes a difference in our own lives and the lives of those we encounter every day.

Filling Our Hearts in Worship
Carefully consider the following three statements about worship. They are essential to understanding what happens as we fill our hearts in worship, receiving the power available to us as we worship the King of kings!

• Worship is directional. When we speak or sing words of grace, thanksgiving, and praise to the King of kings, those around us hear those words; and the cycle of faith that comes by hearing repeats — again and again! Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs — filling our homes and churches with worship and worship music — reinforces God’s Word and edifies all around us. The effect of worship flows upward to God and outward to fellow believers. And God will always respond!
• Worship is motivational. Worship invites the presence of the Lord, and when we encounter Him, we are motivated to accept His invitation to join Him as He works. When God’s people worship in spirit and truth, there is no need to convince them to step into ministry opportunities. Worship motivates us to witness, give, and serve as we receive more revelation of God’s greatness in our lives. Even those who don’t believe or lack real commitment to God are motivated by worship. The story of the woman at the well from John 4, which we shared in Class 2, is a great example. She found herself in the presence of God Himself, and that revelation led her to bring the entire village out to hear from Jesus. Her response to Jesus introduced an entire community to the Savior of the world.
• Worship is continual. Around the very throne of God, there is a continual and never-ending proclamation of praise and adoration for the Holy One. I love the picture of worship in heaven provided in the Book of Revelation: Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the One seated on the throne, the One who lives forever and ever, the 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne, worship the One who lives forever and ever. Revelation 4:8-10

As we learned in Class 2, the Hebrew word shachah, which is used over 100 times in the Old Testament alone, indicates a physical response of bowing and stooping in order to show reverence for the One who was and is greater than all others. That’s what is transpiring over and over again around the throne of God right now! Have you ever been compelled to experience shachah worship by bowing before God?

Celestial beings are repeatedly bowing before the throne of God, crying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming” (Rev. 4:8). Perhaps the constant repetition is not habit but is due to an ever-increasing revelation of God’s greatness, which occurs every time they rise and look into His glorious countenance. They continually worship at the very throne of God Almighty. And forever, every time they bow and cry holy, they rise again to encounter further revelation of the One who was and is and is to come.

There is no shortage of revelation or any lingering doubts about the love of God in heaven. God is present in all His glory, and His love for His people cannot be denied. Perhaps this is why worship continues night and day in heaven! Likewise, as we worship God in spirit and truth on earth, Truth Himself penetrates our hearts, reveals Himself, and elicits a response that, in turn, increases our expression of worship. God is love, and worship will always be our response to God’s revelation — now and forever!

Our focus during times of corporate worship must be on God Himself. Yet there are many distractions that can keep us from truly entering into worship. What are some things that distract you during worship times, corporate or personal?

While we may not always be able to change the environment, we can shut out many of the distractions simply by closing our eyes. It’s amazing how that one simple act can help us regain our focus on the Lord. What are some ways you have been motivated to enter into corporate worship?
• Seeing others sing/worship
• Being encouraged by the pastor or worship leader to worship
• Seeing others worship with enthusiasm, excitement, or heart-felt emotion (e.g., lifting hands, shouting praises, bowing reverently)
• Hearing the music crescendo
• Watching a baptism
• Singing your favorite songs
• Celebrating special holidays such as Christmas or Easter
• Praying

In addition to times of corporate worship, we can continue to worship throughout our daily routine. Consider these times when worship is possible. Which have you enjoyed now or in the past; which would you would like to try:
• While driving to and from appointments
• While cleaning the house or doing other chores
• While exercising
• When gathering as a family for meals and other activities
• While getting ready for bed

When worship becomes a focus every day, it’s not really difficult to find time. God truly loves to hear our voice of praise and adoration. And as our revelation of His great love for us grows, worship is our never-ending response — throughout all of eternity!

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Lesson 3 Love One Another

MAIN IDEA: God’s love for us empowers us to love one another.

Our love for God in response to His love for us is only step one for believers. God has also called us to love one another:

[Jesus] answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Luke 10:27

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

Our response to God’s great love must be reflected not only in our attitudes and actions toward God, but also in our attitudes and actions toward those around us. As we honor God’s instruction, our worship is unhindered.

A Biblical Picture of Love
As we have seen, the Bible tells us that God is love. The Bible also tells us that we were created in God’s image: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’ ” (Gen. 1:26). Furthermore, we know that God doesn’t love us in word only, but also in deed: “God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” (Rom. 5:8). Therefore, as we embrace the grace-filled life that God provides, love must flow through our words and our actions toward one another. As this verse from 1 John tells us, “We love because He first loved us” (4:19). So, we are both commanded and qualified to love God and one another.

Paul’s words to the Colossian church show us how love for one another should look:

God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. Above all, put on love — the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15 1

Read again the list of things Paul told us to “put on”: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance, and forgiveness. Which of these are being evidenced in your life today?

Can you see the picture of love here? We are the elect of God, which means that God chose us. And He has chosen to dwell in us and among us. We are holy because He is holy, and that allows us to approach His throne of grace without any hindrance or obstacles. He loved us enough to die for us, and that love must set the tone for our relationships with one another.

Our attitude and actions toward one another must be tender, merciful, kind, humble, meek, longsuffering, and forgiving. With love — the bond of perfection — in place, the Word of God will flow through us to one another, and peace and thanksgiving will abound — as well as praise!

Let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time. Hebrews 4:16

Love Overflowing
With our attitude and actions toward one another in right order, we can gather corporately with expectation. As we lift our voices to the Lord in worship, with grace in our hearts, the love we have for God will overflow to those around us; and their lives will be changed forever.

Some years ago, when I was serving as a church worship leader in Carrollton, Texas, I witnessed the love of God pour out of the body of Christ on my dear friends, Mark and Marilyn Nesbit. Their daughter, Meredith, a freshman in college at the time, was tragically killed in an automobile accident while returning from school for the Thanksgiving holiday.

As you can imagine, the entire church, and our worship team in particular, rallied around this grief-stricken family. Mark and Marilyn were devastated, but in their broken place, they worshiped; and they called us all to a higher place of worship as well. As we gathered for the memorial service, there were many testimonials and tears. Mark and Marilyn didn’t ask for tears and sorrow that day, although we all shared their grief. But they did ask that I lead the congregation in intimate worship of our great God and Savior! They wanted us to worship God and to invite His glorious presence even in the midst of their tragedy.

I remember clutching my guitar close to my chest and begging God for the grace to honor their deepest desire — and He responded. We sang Meredith’s favorite song that day, “Run to the Cross,” with all the joy and strength we could muster.
Run to the cross, run to the cross
There you will find God’s love divine, run to the cross
That blood-stained place of love and grace God now awaits, run to the cross.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross at Calvary had already bridged the great divide for Meredith, and we wept, worshiped, and celebrated her victory — all at the same time.

Our singing and worship that day transcended the moment of tragedy and led our entire church forward with renewed hope and confidence that our Redeemer lives and cares about each one of us. As we lifted our voices in praise to our God, barriers were broken down that day — barriers that separated us from God and barriers that separated men and women in our fellowship from one another. Love Himself broke through that day as we all ran to the cross together.

Have you ever been part of worshiping in the midst of tragedy? What did God do in that situation to show you His love?

Jesus made it clear: unless we reach out to one another in love, the world will not recognize that we are His disciples. As the following passage from 1 John affirms, love is the very thing that indicates we are born of God:

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

If we know and love God, love should flow freely in our lives. In fact, without love, our good deeds and our spiritual gifts are ineffective, as we read in 1 Corinthians:

If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

In addition to instructing us to love one another, Jesus declared that we are to be “salt and light” to the world around us. He has chosen to dwell in each of us through the Holy Spirit and to reach the unsaved through us. The key is always found in abiding in Christ and allowing His Spirit to work through us. Think of some ways you can reach out to people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus in your community, workplace, or school.

God is love, and God wants to express His love through us — the body of Christ — to believers and to the unsaved every day. God always initiates, and we simply respond. As we grasp the width, depth, and breadth of His love for us, our worship will express and demonstrate love in return.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5, NKJV

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?

Lesson 4 God Inhabits Our Worship

MAIN IDEA: When we worship, God has promised to be present.

As Blackaby and King emphasize in Experiencing God, God is at work around you right now, and He wants a deeper personal relationship with you. A very important key to that relationship is having a correct view of God in relationship to mankind.

Throughout the ages, God has been in the continual process of revealing to us His character and His essence. Almost everyone on planet Earth believes in some kind of god; and our God, the great I AM, has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself to us through creation, through His Word (both the written Word and the Living Word, Jesus Christ), and through the Holy Spirit. Consider what the Scriptures say:

Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20, NIV

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God. Colossians 1:15

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:1,14, NIV

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.” John 16:13-15

God has revealed and continues to reveal Himself to us—who He is and what He has done—and His presence is real and available to us today. Worship is our only reasonable response to God’s revelation!

Worship Invites the Presence of God

As we will explore in greater depth in the next lesson, we were created to have a relationship with God and to respond to His great love for us with worship. And something wonderful happens as we worship: we make a place for God to dwell in our midst. When we worship, we actually invite the presence of God to be manifest among us:

You are holy, O You Who dwell in [the holy place where] the praises of Israel [are offered]. Psalm 22:3, AMP

As we spend time in God’s presence, He directs us and empowers us to respond, and we experience Him in new and glorious ways. Entering into worship, whether individually or corporately, is a surefire way to experience God!

Abraham is a good example of a man who spent time worshiping God— inviting God’s presence. Throughout his journey from his childhood home in Ur to his season of failure in Egypt, Abraham met regularly with God, experienced God’s presence, and faithfully responded to God’s direction. When he ultimately received the promise—his dear son, Isaac—he must have thought his journey of faith was fulfilled. But God had further revelation and breakthrough planned for Abraham’s life.

One day God called Abraham to literally sacrifice Isaac, the child of promise, the joy of his life and the hope for future generations. Abraham was empowered by God to climb Mount Moriah and place Isaac on the altar. As we will study in more detail in the next lesson, Abraham’s response to God’s revelation was worship—and God answered! God inhabited Abraham’s worship, and Abraham experienced God. Have you ever sensed God’s presence in some situation in your life—beyond your normal assurance that God is always there? What was your response to the situation? Did you worship God, or did you respond in a different way? If you didn’t consider your response “worship” at the time, what do you think now that you’ve begun this course?

Abraham and Isaac experienced God in worship in that private and intimate moment on the mountain, and it changed all of our lives forever, because Abraham’s faith in action set the example for every generation to follow.

Just as God was present with Abraham on that day, so also God will be present when we worship, whether we’re alone or gathered with other believers to express our worship. God has promised, and He is always faithful.

Something Special Happens When We Worship Together

Though God is always present whenever and wherever we worship, I know from personal experience that something very special can happen when we come together to worship corporately—particularly when a stadium full of believers gathers to worship!

A few years ago, I joined 15 men from our church at a Promise Keepers event in Texas Stadium. Honestly, I didn’t really want to go. I had so many details pressing in with my role as music minister at our church; but I had made a commitment to the guys, and so I went. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had an appointment with God Almighty that day.

We were late to the stadium and ended up in the end zone, about as far from the platform as you can get. But it really didn’t matter. God was there. He was all over the stadium. As the hearts and voices of over 60,000 men rose toward heaven that day, our God responded—He truly inhabited the praises of His people.

The speaker’s message really didn’t make a difference for me that day. The only thing that mattered was God’s amazing presence in the midst of our uninhibited worship. As the speaker proclaimed God’s call for ministers to move forward in their calling, those precious brothers laid hands on me and prayed me “forward in ministry” right there on the Astroturf at Texas Stadium. I could never describe the overwhelming power of God’s presence that day as I knelt and wept my way to the very throne of God. He was there! God always inhabits the praises of His people.

The trumpeters and singers joined together to praise and thank the LORD with one voice. They raised their voices, accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and musical instruments, in praise to the LORD: For He is good; His faithful love endures forever; the temple, the LORD’s temple, was filled with a cloud. And because of the cloud, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the LORD filled God’s temple. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14

What happened as the people worshiped God in 2 Chronicles 5? Consider how the priests “were not able to continue ministering” when confronted with the glory of God. Does this speak to you about taking time away from work to spend time in worship? How might you apply this teaching? Why not join the worship in heaven right now and shout: For the Lord is good! His faithful love endures forever!

• What statement or Scripture you read in this lesson was most meaningful?
• Reword the statement or Scripture into a prayer of response.
• What does God want you to do in response to this lesson?