1st June 2008 

Acts 2:42-47
Matthew 7:21-29

The first of our Feldon Group values is wholehearted Love for God. Today we look at one aspect of that, worship.

We worship God by the life we lead, by the worship services we participate in, and by our private worship. The word ‘worship’ is derived from ‘worth-ship’: we are honouring a person who is worthy of our honour. The Gospel reading for today reminds us that honouring Jesus as ‘Lord’ is not a matter of words only (however correct or beautiful), nor even of doing amazing things in his name: it is a matter of obedience. If we do not obey God we do not honour Jesus, nor do we have a genuine relationship with him (‘I never knew you’).

The reading from Acts shows how the first Christians lived their lives. We find them keen to learn from the Apostles the things Jesus had taught them. We find the early Christians spending a lot of time together – fellowship, meals, worshipping together. They supported one another practically and sacrificially. We also find them participating in worship together. These verses in Acts do not mention private prayer; they show that the Christians wanted to worship God together as much as possible, especially in the temple at the regular Jewish services. (This does not mean that they only worshipped God together; the Apostles knew that Jesus taught people to pray in secret as well as in the temple and synagogue.)

What does our Lord look for in our worship today?

First, he wants our lives to honour him. The New Testament gives us the teaching and example of Jesus and his apostles, so we know in broad outline how Jesus wants us to live. We have the Holy Spirit living within us, and he guides us from day to day. We honour God by living lives of wholehearted obedience. If we know something is God’s will, we do it – because we love him.

Second, he wants us to honour him in public worship. We are joined together into a body, Christ’s body, and need one another in order to grow spiritually and to serve Christ. Many people say, ‘I can be a Christian without going to Church’. But the Bible says, ‘Let us not give up meeting together’ (Hebrews 10:25). When we meet together for God’s sake he is honoured. We can praise God more effectively (an orchestra is more than individual instruments doing their own thing), we can learn from and encourage one another, we can act together to accomplish more than we could as individuals.

Public worship is never going to be exactly what we hope. There will be words and music which we do not particularly enjoy. We may not find the people easy to relate to. But God is honoured by our participation in it, and we can learn to invest both the words and the music with as much meaning as possible, however imperfect they may be. After all, worship is a matter of the heart more than the outside.

Thirdly, he wants us also to worship him in private. Our relationship with God is individual and personal, and much of its growth is a private matter, involving our heart. Two elements are important: getting to know God better, and for that we need the Bible; and developing our relationship through private prayer in one way or another – we need not be afraid to experiment to find what is most helpful to us.

These three things are all interlinked. Private and public worship develops our knowledge of God and love for him, and helps us to live more the way he wants. If we are serious about doing what God wants, we will spend time in public and private worship. But the focus of all three is God himself: ‘hallowed be thy name’.

Questions:

1) What pattern of worship do you find most helpful?

2) How do you think you can honour God more in worship?