Psalm 95
(click to read the chapter)

Have you ever been in a worship service where God's power and presence were so evident that when you left you knew you had truly experienced the Lord? We've had services like that here. On the other hand, we've all experienced services where we had to fight back a yawn and wonder if God was there at all.

I suggest that the difference between these two services was not the style of the music or the content of the sermon, but the condition of our hearts. It is only when our hearts are right before God that will we ever enter into true worship.

As an evangelical, Bible-teaching church, we understand that the purpose of the church is for edification and evangelism. God has left us here to build one another up, so we can go out and tell others of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing should stop us from our two-fold purpose. Still, authentic worship, the joyful praise of Almighty God is the force that drives us.

Unless we learn to stand in awe of God and wonder at his glory, we will never have God's passion for edification or evangelism. It is no wonder that A.W. Tozer said that "Worship is the missing jewel of the evangelical church." The point is that worship must come first.

I believe that one of the problems in today's church is that we worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship. When our worship grows stale, so does our passion for God.

In this psalm we will try to rediscover our passion for God that comes through worship. Let me first of all give you my definition of worship.

Worship is the reasonable, heart-felt response of those who have known God's grace that values Him above anyone or anything else.

Therefore, worship is much more than a few songs on Sunday mornings. In fact, worship is a lifestyle. Worship is constantly putting God first in what we say, what we think and what we do. When we gather together to sing songs of worship, we are merely putting music to the song that is already in our hearts. Consequently, when we do not value God above everything, there is no song in our heart and our music is just noise.

In Psalm 95, we see two reasons why we should worship God.

First, we should worship God for who He is.
We often link the words worship and praise together. However, they are two different responses. Praise is a response to what God does. Worship is a response to who God is. If my dog sits when he is supposed to sit, and comes when he is supposed to come, I praise him. I scratch his ears and tell him he is a good dog. I may praise my dog but I don't worship him. I praise God when He answers my prayers. I praise Him in response to how he works in my life. But I worship Him for who He is. I worship him simply because He is God. If God were never to answer another prayer while we live on this earth, we should still praise him for what he has already done for us.

Let's reread verses 1-7, and I want you to underline the statements that tell us who God is.

Who else is like our God?
Who else could we say these things of? Who created us, and blesses us? Who else or what else could we worship that comes close to God? No one! This is why after the first 2 of the 10 Commandments God says, "For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God." God is jealous when we worship anyone or anything other than Him. God is jealous when we value anyone or anything before Him. Righteous jealousy is a sign of true love.

God's jealousy is part of his love for us. I love Carol more than any person in the world. I am so much in love with her, that I would become very jealous of anyone who tried to steal her affections. I don't want her to share her love with anyone else but me. It would infuriate me if I saw another man start to hug and kiss her in ways that only I should. In fact, if you want to see me go into a jealous rage, just try to come between me and her. Once, a person who is very dear to me started to say negative things about Carol. I told that person that no matter how close we are, if they continued to say bad things about Carol, I would never talk to them again.

Ephesians 5 shows us that Christ's love for His church is how man's love for his wife should be. Since God is preparing us to be the bride of Christ, it is no wonder He is jealous of our affection. How do you think it makes God feel when he sees us chasing after the gods of this world?

In the Old Testament, God said that his people were committing spiritual adultery when they worshiped false idols. I want you to understand that it breaks God's heart when we worship the god of money or the god of possessions, or the god of pleasure more than we worship him. He doesn't want you to put your family, your work, or your ministry, in front of him. God alone is worthy to be worshiped. He is the exclusive object of our highest adoration.

The second motivation for worshiping God is because of who we are in relation to Him.
(Verse 7) This is important for you to keep in mind because one of Satan's favorite tricks is to sneak up on you, after you have sinned, and whisper the lie that you can't be a Christian and do the things you do. And if you believe that that is the truth, you will become disillusioned with your walk with the Lord. And you will walk around with your head hanging down, declaring that you are nothing more than a stupid, little, insignificant person.

But when you can keep in mind that you are God's sheep, then you can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit telling you that God thinks that you are the greatest person in the whole world. God's opinion of you is not hinged upon your performance as a Christian. He holds you in high regard simply because you're his. In and of ourselves, we are nothing. Our value is only in who owns us.

God made us and He bought us back with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, we belong to Him. He is our shepherd, we are his sheep. Occasionally, we will hear about someone who abused his pets. When we see the video of the sick, starving animals, it makes us angry. We say, "That person doesn't even deserve to own a pet." Then there are people who go to the other extreme. We've known people who've treated their pets as though they were one of their children. They dress them in sweaters and treat them like people.

Now let me ask, if you were a pet, which type of owner would you want to have? Let me tell you about your Owner, your Shepherd. He is Almighty God. He loves you infinitely and cares for your every need. He finds His greatest joy in you. He is constantly thinking about you. His thoughts towards you are more than the number of the grains of sand of all the beaches in the world. And those thoughts are to prosper you, not to hurt you. God loves you so much that there is not a hair on your head that escapes His attention. How can we not worship someone who loves us so much?

In order for us to enter into true worship every time we meet, we have got to get it into our minds that worship is for God, not for us.

We may be blessed, comforted, encouraged and edified as we worship, but all that is secondary. When you enter into the doors of a house of worship, you ought to tell yourself that you are here for the sole purpose of worshiping God. When we leave a worship service we shouldn't be thinking about whether or not we liked the selection of songs or if the sermon was any good. Instead we should ask ourselves if we honored God during the service! We should be wondering if we put our hearts into the worship!

Not only does this psalm give us the reasons for worship, but it gives us some ways to worship.

First of all, we are to worship corporately. Notice the use of the plural pronoun "us" in this psalm. In fact, it uses the phrase "Let us" six times. It says, "Let us sing;" "Let us shout;" "Let us come before His presence;" "Let us worship;" and "Let us kneel."

A survey of the first 5 books of the Bible should convince us that God was very concerned with the way his people worshiped him. He prescribed all the elements and the order of worship: from the construction of the tabernacle & the temple, down to the smallest details of the clothes the priests were to wear.

As the Israelites prepared to possess the Promised Land, God commanded the people that they were not to offer sacrifices wherever they wanted as the other nations did. Instead, God commanded them to worship in a place he would designate. Eventually, that place was identified as Jerusalem. And 3 times a year the entire nation was commanded to come together to worship the Lord. So to the Jews, worship was considered to be a communal event. For a Jew not to go to Jerusalem to worship as a nation would be considered an act of rebellion.

This is why the psalmist concludes this great psalm on worship with a call to obedience in verses the last part of verses 7 through 11.

The Psalmist recalls how Israel rebelled and disobeyed God in the wilderness. After the Lord delivered them from slavery in Egypt and brought them to the edge of the Promised Land, they hardened their hearts. Instead of entering into the fullness of all that God had for them, they wanted to get a new leader and go back to Egypt. And because of this, they weren't allowed to enter into the Promised Land for 40 more years.

Notice in verse 10 that God said that their problem was a heart condition. The same is true when it comes to worship. God wants us to enter into & experience the fullness of his presence through worship.

Instead of doing so, we start to grumble and complain about the style of music, or about the content or the length of the sermon. And we find ourselves wishing we had stayed home in bed rather than being glad we came to the house of the Lord. And on the way home, all we do is criticize everything that happened in church that day.

Brothers & sisters, instead of grumbling & complaining about the music, we ought to rejoicing that as we ministered unto God through singing, he ministered unto us.

Instead of grumbling & complaining about what someone said, we ought to be in awe that we were able to catch a glimpse of God's glory as that person shared what God was doing in their life.

Instead of grumbling & complaining about the sermon, we out to feel blessed that God spoke to us through his chosen spokesman of the pastor.

The point I am trying to make is that worship is a matter of obedience of the heart. If you refuse to worship the Lord, just because you don't like the style of the music, it might be because you are in rebellion.

If you can't get past the preacher's style of preaching, and hear what the Spirit of the Lord is trying to say to his church, it might be because you have hardened your heart to the point you can no longer hear the Spirit's voice.

And if you find it easier to stay home, rather than gathering for corporate worship, perhaps you need to go to doctor Jesus and have your heart checked. I'm not saying you need to be in church every time the door opens. There is nothing wrong with taking vacations, or family outings that keep you from gathering with the rest of the saints. But these should be exceptions rather than the norm of your life.

Look, I know that worshiping with other believers is not always convenient. I know how hard it is to get your family up and dressed so you can get here on time. I know how nice it would be to sleep in on Sunday mornings. But if you think it's hard to make it to church on some Sundays, imagine the inconvenience gathering for corporate worship was for the Jews. For most of them, the 3 worship holidays meant weeks away from home as they traveled to and from Jerusalem. Yet, God seemed perfectly content requiring such sacrifices for the purpose of gathering his people in worship.

Though we can worship God anytime and anyplace, worshiping together gives us a unique opportunity to experience Jesus.

The Bible tells us that the Lord is, "Enthroned in the praises of Israel."

That means Jesus allows his presence to be sensed in a special way when the church gathers for corporate worship. When we gather together for corporate worship, Jesus is actually in our midst singing praises to the Father with us.

The prophet Zephaniah gives us a beautiful picture of what Jesus does when he dwells among a worshipful church. He said, "Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, rejoice with all your heart. The Lord your God is in your midst, exulting with joy over you, dancing with shouts of joy for you."

Do you realize that if God were to open our eyes to the heavenly realm, we would have seen the Lord Jesus singing, raising his hands, and dancing with shouts of joy as we sang to our heavenly Father this morning?

Do you think that seeing Jesus worshiping beside you might have changed how you sang this morning? If you could see Jesus sitting next to you right now, do you think you might fall asleep during the sermon, or start to doodle on your bulletin?.

I've got a feeling that each and everyone of us would have sung like we never have sung before, and right now you would be giving me your undivided attention.

This is the way every worship service will be for you if you will remember that Jesus is in our midst.

Secondly, we are to worship verbally

In v. 1 we are told to "sing" and to "shout" to the Lord. Now I may not be the brightest bulb in the pack, but one thing I know for sure is that you can't sing or shout without opening your mouth!

Now I know that many people don't like to sing because they can't sing on key or carry a note. When I first got saved, I decided I was going to join the church's choir. So after going to several weeks of practice, I felt I was ready to make my singing debut. After the service, we went over to eat with our best friends, who also were in the choir. The wife told her husband that he sure was singing off key this morning. What she didn't realize is that I had taken his spot behind her, and I was the one who was singing so bad. Needless to say, that was also my last performance in the choirs.

This is why I love the fact that God tells us that we are to sing and shout "joyfully," not perfectly. In any church at least 50% of the people can't sing well. But that doesn't mean that only 1/2 of the church should sing. After all, God knows whether or not you sing well, because he is the one you gave you your singing ability. God took the credit for our singing ability when he said to Moses, "Who has made man's mouth? Have not I, the LORD?" So it doesn't make any difference how well you can sing, God still compels you to open your mouth and let whatever comes out be your joyful songs of worship to Him.

Thirdly, we are told that we are to worship physically

In verse 6 we are told to "bow down" and to "kneel" before the Lord.

Here is some other ways found in the book of Psalms that tells us how we are to physically worship the Lord:

"Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!

"Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD."

All of these are legitimate postures for worship. The point is that we are to have the freedom to express our worship with our voices and with our body. You can bow. You can kneel. You can stand. You can sit. You can clap. You can lift your hands. Because these are biblical forms of worship, you are free to use them in your worship of God!

Let me show you about one more posture of worship I see from time to time. (a frown and scowl) That's not the posture of praise but of a spoiled child who isn't get his way. That's the posture of someone who hopes someone else will notice his/her disapproval. If you don't particularly care for a song, just put a smile on your face and worship through prayer.
Don't ever try to stifle the joy of the Lord by your posture and expression.

Let me finish by sharing a concern I have about today's worship. Some people perceive worship as a way of getting God to show up in a worship service. They believe that if you sing loud enough, long enough, or emotionally enough, then God will manifest himself in a powerful way. While it is true that God moves in response to our worship of him. Yet, he only responds if the worship as been a simple response to his grace. If the worship was a gimmick to get him to perform some kind of spiritual magic trick in our midst, no matter how long, or how loud, or how emotional the worship was, he will not move.

The danger of perceiving worship as a mechanism that brings about God's presence, is that eventually we will start to focus on the act of worship itself, rather than on the one we are worshiping. Which will result in worshiping worship instead of worshiping God.

When we start to worship the worship, instead of God, our worship services will become more of a spiritual dog & pony show, than an event that honors God. And we will be tricked into thinking we've encountered God, when all we've really experienced is our emotions.

Let's pray!!