Imagine being in heaven and watching people worship Jesus. As you are watching them you realize you cannot hear anything. You cannot hear the melody of the singing, the words to the prayers or the declarations made by anyone. You ask Jesus why the sound is muted and He tells you that the reason the sound is mute is because that is what all heaven hears when a person’s worship is improper. Jesus only hears and accepts the worship that is proper.
In Psalm 24 you will see 3 keys to properly worshiping God.
Proper worship is God-focused (24:1-2).
The Psalmist, David, recognized God’s complete sovereignty over all the earth. God’s sovereignty is his control over all of creation. David specifically mentions those who live in creation (hey, that’s you & I). The point being made is that all of life must be focused on the fact that God is of central importance to the world. In fact, you cannot view creation without thinking about its Creator.
Youth ministry (as many others) has a tendency to create a mentality of crowd faith. What I mean is rather than individual students having personal faith focused in God they limit God to group activities. Students only read the Bible when they are in group study. They do not pray or enter into any kind of discussion because they fear “public speaking”. Yet ironically, they do not do these things privately either. Personal faith has been reduced to attending events, conferences and gatherings. Rather than having a divine encounter with the living God students seek sensory appeal and crowd buzz. God is calling for so much more. He wants students to meet him and know him, even as face to face (v.6). A lifestyle of worship must be radically centered on personally knowing God.
Proper worship is pure (24:3-6).
David continues his focus on God in asking, who can approach Him? The answer is “he who has clean hands and a pure heart”. This is symbolic language to describe someone with pure character. Unfortunately, there is no one who can ascend to this requirement. It’s a hill too large to climb, everyone falls short because by nature everyone is not God-focused. In fact, everyone is a God-substituter. That means that in our hearts we replace God with things that are our own desires. At its core this is what the Bible describes as idolatry. Our hearts are idol factories, creating gods in our own image to suit our own desires.
The simple fact of the matter is purity brings life. Without purity life is tainted. Randy Alcorn, in his little but profound book “The Purity Principle” explains further:
“Those who turn from God to embrace a God-substitute suffer terrible loss. Why? Because they were made to find joy in God, not the substitute. They swap God’s present and future blessing for something they can immediately see, taste, or feel. But that something never satisfies… Christian men and women forfeit future happiness for the sake of temporary sexual stimulation. Like drug addicts, we go from fix to fix, trading the contentment from righteous living for the quick hits that always leave us empty, craving more.” (pp 12-13)
“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” Jonah 2:8
Proper worship is responsive (24:7-10).
David closes his Psalm with repeated declarations. He focuses on God, naming him the King of Glory, strong and mighty. It is likely that the psalm would be put to music and tradition states it was sung at the beginning of every week in the Jewish temple.
Worship is a way for you to respond to God. It is to be celebrative, declaring the greatness and goodness of God. When a person realizes who God is they will not be able to refrain from being in complete awe and wonder. The proper response is for you to lift your attention to the Almighty King.
Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.”
John 4:23-24 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is SEEKING such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Once again, imagine being in heaven watching people worship God. This time, you not only can see them worship but you can hear them worship. You hear the rhythmic melody that draws you to sing out loud, you hear prayers being spoken and though you cannot make out what they are all saying you somehow know Jesus can. You also hear shouts of individuals declaring great truths about God. So, you look over to Jesus to observe His reaction and you see tears in His eyes as He smiles with great joy knowing that your worship and that of many others is gladly received.
Taking It Home
· Is my worship being heard and accepted by God? How do you know?
· Is my faith merely a group activity or is it personal?
· Write out a typical schedule for your day. List everything from brushing teeth to going to class to setting your alarm clock just before laying your head on the pillow at night. Where does God fit in your day? Is it the best time?
· What worthless idol am I clinging to?
· Am I merely settling for the appearance of purity?
· Who can I talk to about my purity struggle?
· What is God calling me to do in response to Psalm 24?