This summer, we are reading Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life together. With certain goals for us as individuals, we all desire to grow in grace and personal holiness. The purpose of this study is to help us make necessary adjustments in our spiritual lives that will enable us to achieve such goals by incorporating the use of spiritual disciplines.
In the previous chapters, Don Whitney has outlined the specifics of Bible reading, meditation, and prayer. What exactly is taking place when we read the Bible, meditate on Scripture, and pray? These are merely component parts of worship. In this chapter, Whitney defines and describes the worship of God, and explains why it’s necessary in both public and private settings.
Worship Is . . . Focusing on and Responding to God
According to Don Whitney, “The word worship descends from the Saxon word weorthyscype, which later became worthship. To worship God means to ascribe proper worth to God, to magnify His worthiness of praise, or better, to approach and address God as He is worthy” (103). What we find happening in Revelation 4 and 5 are examples of worship. As we read and consider those scenes of worship, it’s clear that all focus is on God. How we worship God matters, and if our worship is distracted, it prevent worship.
Some may argue that we are not in heaven and cannot worship Him by visually looking at His appearance. How must we worship the invisible God who is with us? Beyond looking at creation and worshipping the One who created such majestic mountains and painted such a stunning sunset – we worship God through the image that He has provided to us in His written Word (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). In both private (family worship) and public worship, we must worship Him through the lens of Scripture.
Worship . . . Done in Spirit and Truth
Don Whitney writes, “The most profound passage on worship in the New Testament is John 4:23-24. There Jesus said, ‘But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the truth worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth'” (106). In order to accomplish this, we must possess the Holy Spirit within us, and that’s only possible for those who have come to Christ in repentance and faith. Every person who has trusted Christ as Lord has the indwelling Spirit of God living within them, and without Him true worship will not happen.
We must likewise remember that we worship in spirit and truth. Truth is found in the pages of Scripture, and we must base our worship of God on the revealed truth given to us by God. True worship is not goosebumps and big productions. True worship of God happens by the people who are led by the Spirit of God and base their worship of God on what He has made known to us in the Bible. In other words, worship is not merely emotionally driven – it’s driven by truth! That doesn’t mean that we don’t engage our emotions in worship. Don Whitney writes:
So we must worship in both spirit and truth, with both heart and head, with both emotion and thought. If we worship with too much emphasis on spirit we will be mushy and weak on the truth, worshipping mainly according to feelings. That can lead anywhere from a lazy, unthinking tolerance of anything in worship at one extreme to uncontrollable spiritual wildfire on the other. But if we overemphasize worship in truth and minimize worship in spirit, then our worship will be taut, grim, and icily predictable (108).
Worship . . . Expected Both Publicly and Privately
According to Hebrews 10:25, God expects His people to gather for public worship with other believers. God warns us to refrain from disconnecting and neglecting the assembly of the believers. Whitney writes, “The church of Jesus Christ is not a collection of isolationists” (110). All through the Bible we see imagery used describing the church as a “flock” (Acts 20:28), “body” (1 Corinthians 12:12), “structure” (Ephesians 2:21), and “household” (Ephesians 2:19), and in each case – the point is made clear – each member of the church is important and needs the other members.
In addition to public worship, we are called to private worship – the worship of God that takes place when we are alone and when we gather with our individual families. Whitney asks, “How can we worship God publicly once each week when we do not care to worship him privately throughout the week” (112)? Consider how we should pray, read the Bible, and disciple our families (especially the children) in private worship each week (see Deuteronomy 6). Private worship is essential.
Worship Is . . . A Discipline to be Cultivated
Just like any other discipline, if we don’t put effort and intentionality into our worship of God, it will be shallow, pragmatic, and dishonoring to God. Don Whitney says, “Without discipline, our worship of God will be thin and inconsistent” (113). If worship is (and it certainly is) a response to the glory of God and all of His beauty, splendor, majesty, and sovereignty – how can God’s children neglect private and public worship? People who are not truly worshipping God are either caught in a routine of duties that distract them from worship, or they’re not genuinely converted. A true child of God will worship – although the overall worship practice is a discipline that must be cultivated.
Don Whitney writes:
So if you are discouraged by the snail’s pace of your sanctification, get counsel from those who do seem to be growing in godliness through public and private worship. Talk to a mature Christian who has a meaningful devotional life. Review some of the earlier sections of this book, particularly the ones on mediation and prayer. The development of discipline, from hitting a golf ball to playing the piano, almost always requires outside help from those with more experiences. So don’t be surprised that you need help in the development of the Disciplines that lead to Christlikeness, and don’t be afraid to ask for it (114).
Catch up in this series:
Questions to Consider:
- Will you commit yourself to the discipline of daily worship?
- Will you put actual worship into your acts of worship?
- What is preventing you from worshipping God? Do you bring certain distractions into your worship time? Does your phone hinder you? If your phone or tablet prevents a temptation to check e-mail and do other things during worship (private and public), put those things away and use your Bible in printed form.
- Are you worshipping God weekly or watching others worship?
Next Week: Next week, we will turn to chapter 6 and look at the subject of evangelism. Read ahead and think through the content of that chapter, and we will gather here next week to discuss what we’re learning.
Discussion: Post your comments, thoughts, and questions in the comments section. I will engage with you at times, but the purpose is to allow everyone to have a conversation regarding what we are learning and considering through this book. I do hope you will be encouraged.