Sometimes a congregation’s public worship can just be downright cold and lifeless. Therefore, in an attempt to revive their dead services, many churches change worship styles, or songs books, or preachers. While these changes may perhaps bring life back into a dead service, they are temporary fixes at best, because these remedies only focus on the externals. The only way to truly bring the fire back into our public worship is first change our hearts. Using Psalm 84 as a guide, let’s learn three ways to put the fire back into our public worship.
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of host! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of host, my king and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!” (Psalm 84:1-4)
The Psalmist had an appetite for God. His hunger for God is clearly seen in the words: longs, faints, crying out to Him (KJV).
Everyone has hungers within them. A hunger for companionship and community, for involvement in something greater than themselves. Others hunger for perspective, knowledge and understand of the world around them. Still some possesses a gnawing hunger of emptiness, restlessness, or that hard to explain, gut feeling that something is missing in their lives.
One reason our public worship can, at times, be cold and lifeless is because we have ruined our appetites. We have satisfied our hungers with the junk foods of the world. We have attempted to satisfy our hungers an excesses of food and drink, or entertainment, or work, or studies, or sex, or drugs, or worldly companions, or worldly organizations. Consequently, it’s no wonder our worship is half-hearted at times, we have been gorging ourselves on the junk food of the world we don’t come hungry for God and we don’t worship Him with fire and zeal.
When God’s people of old were consumed with idols and wicked living, they would do something that was simple and dramatic; they would fast. Joel 2:12-13 is a good example: “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’”
Fasting was a sign they were serious about turning back to God. I challenge you, to get serious about putting the fire back into our public worship by fasting from all the proverbial junk in your life that you have been gorging on. Cut out all those things that are stealing your hunger for God. If you do that, you’ll be well on your way to putting the fire back into our public worship. But there’s more…
“Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, of God of Jacob” (Psalm 84:5-8)
Focus with me on the words, “in whose hearts are the highways to Zion” meaning the worshipers had prepared their hearts to go to the public worship in Jerusalem. (The NIV says, “whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”) Moreover, their hearts and attitudes transformed wilderness into of joy. Don’t miss that point, when worshipers prepare their hearts, they strengthen the hearts of those around them.
I ran across this quote attributed to Timothy Keller recently that I think will help us understand the idea of coming prepared for worship:
“Public worship is only the manifestation of private worship. The reason our public services are dead is that our private devotional life is dead. The ‘quick fix’ of injecting more upbeat music into our services may seem to solve the problem, but we have ignored the disease that will destroy us, unless we seek God’s cure. Our church congregations fail to sing with conviction because the song isn’t in their hearts before they come to the service.”
Did you catch that, “Our, public worship is only a manifestation of private worship.” I believe that is so true. So do you prepare yourself for the public worship on Sunday by privately worshiping God Monday – Saturday?
We understand this principle, especially in the sports arena. Athletes prepare themselves for the big game with practices, drills and film study. They realize that without preparation they will not be able to perform at a high level and will not win. The same is true with us. It’s awful hard to “stir up love and good works” in others (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25) when we haven’t prepared our hearts beforehand.
To put the fire back into public worship come prepared by engaging in private worship Monday – Saturday. Sing the songs, put them into your heart. Read your God’s word, put into your heart. Pray to God, honor Jesus, stand in awe of Him and His work and fellowship with His saints. Doing these things when we are not together, will help prepare your heart for when the church comes together for public worship. And consequently, will help put the fire back into our public worship. One last point…
“Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trust in You!” (Psalm 84:9-12)
Notice that his excitement was not built around the great singing, or hearing inspirational preaching, or for that matter any external act of worship. Rather, his excitement was simply built around being with God and His people. If you are looking to be excited by the songs that will be sung or the preaching that you will hear, then you will be dissatisfied more times than not. The preacher will be off, or the message won’t be as inspirational as you would have hoped. The songs will be a little flat or the selection a little too old to suit your taste. However, if you excitement and joy about worshiping with your brothers and sisters in Christ is built on God and who He is, you will never be dissatisfied.
To build on our two previous points, the psalmist was excited because he was coming to God hungry and prepared. His excitement was an outgrowth of his lifestyle. He didn’t feed on the junk food of the world, nor was he lax in the preparation of his heart; all of which lead him to be excited.
Do you want to put the fire back into our public worship? If so, then the challenge for you is to…
• Come Hungry by declaring a worldly-junk food fast in your life in order to cultivate a real hunger for God.
• Come Prepared by engaging in private worship throughout the week.
• Come Excited by building your anticipation on God rather than on the externals of worship.
Friend, I believe that if you do this things, you will see your spirit rejuvenated, your public (and private) worship electrified. If I can help you on your spiritual journey, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to help any way I can. And as always, share the good news of the Lord with someone today.