How to define authentic worship
March 20, 2016
by Pastor Steve Ellison

"Worship will not happen by accident; it must be taught to each new generation. Laments, praises, and thanksgiving psalms can aid any person who knows them. It is important, then, for such poems to be handed down, or faith may die," Paul House and Eric Mitchell reveal in Old Testament Survey.

My generation and the generations before us have failed miserably in teaching what real and authentic worship is. It seems to me that the Psalms could be very helpful. Many years ago a dear friend, to whom I owe a great debt because she and her husband taught me much, made a comment in a Sunday School class about the Psalms. She was explaining about the how she loved to read the Psalms for early morning devotions. Then she said, "they are always so full of encouragement and beauty." I would agree that some Psalms are exactly that. However, a very large number of them include portions (sometimes the whole Psalm) that are not exactly encouraging or beautiful.

We moderns have a tendency to sing about all things positive in our worship services. We may sing the blues in other settings but not in worship. However, that was not the case for God's people. They were certainly in the habit of singing all the Psalms. This practice did not stop when the church was formed. 1 Corinthians 14, Ephesians 5, and Colossians 3 all refer to

the use of Psalms in church worship services. It stands to reason that they did not limit their use of Psalms to those that are only sweetness and light. Many Psalms are complaints to God; however the psalmist often comes to his senses and switches to extolling the virtues of God. Many other Psalms include cries from God's people seeking vengeance on their enemies. These imprecatory Psalms are difficult for us to interpret but they do serve the purpose of partially illustrating the fate that awaits those who fail to accept God's offer of redemption. Several Psalms speak of singing in the night, which is really about joy in the face of disappointment or tragedy. We must not think that our worship will always be happy or pleasant. The many thanksgiving Psalms remind us to declare the great and mighty works of God in worship of His majesty.

It seems to me that a malady has infiltrated our modern worship. We seem to think that we have worshipped when we attend a meeting that made us feel good. We seem to have fallen into the trap that we have worshipped when we "get something out of a meeting." That is exactly the opposite of worship and in fact heresy. Worship is not related to what we receive but rather what we give. King David declared as much when he refused to worship with sacrifices which were offered to him free of charge. Furthermore, we seem to have fallen into the fallacy that whether or not we have received anything is based on whether not we enjoyed what took place at any given meeting. Worship cannot be about the worshipper. Worship must be on the terms dictated by Him who is worshipped. Worship involves a broken and contrite heart on the part of the worshipper. Worship will be brought on by repentance of sin and reception of grace on the part of the worshipper. Worship will involve giving on the part of the worshipper. Worship will happen when the worshipper falls (not necessarily literally) in submission before God. Worship must take place even in the face of disappointment and suffering. Authentic worship is not related to our enjoyment or even what emotional satisfaction we might feel. Authentic worship is honest and real submission to Him who created you no matter how you feel.

Pastor Steve Ellison is associated with the Ouachita Baptist Association, the Ouachita Theological Training Institute and the Ouachita Baptist Assembly.

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