A Heart for Worship

By EXW Staff
August 03, 2022

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by Dr. Wayne Poplin - Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews, NC

This sermon comes to us from Dr. Wayne Poplin of Carmel Baptist Church in Matthews, NC.

INTRODUCTION: As we begin to talk about worship, let’s start with a mind-boggling thought. As we consider our galaxy, just ours, a scientist suggested this analogy. Imagine a perfectly smooth glass pavement on which the finest speck can be seen. Then shrink our sun from 865,00 miles in diameter to only two feet and place a ball on the pavement to represent the sun. Step off 164 feet to represent proportionately the first planet, Mercury, and put down a tiny mustard seed. Go another 120 feet and for Venus put down a BB. Go about 156 feet further and put down a green pea representing earth. Step off about 216 feet and for Mars put down a pinhead. Sprinkle around some fine dust for the asteroids, then go about 1576 feet and put down an orange for Jupiter. After 2000 feet put down a golf ball for Saturn. Now—over 4000 feet, a marble for Uranus. Another 4700 feet and you get to Neptune. Put down a cherry. We have gone 2 ½ miles and haven’t even discussed Pluto. Now on a surface 5 miles across we have a seed, a BB, a pea, pinhead, some dust, an orange, golf ball, marble and a cherry. Guess how far we would have to go on this scale before we could put down another 2-foot ball to represent the nearest star? 6,720 miles before we would arrive at that star. Miles. And that is just the first star among millions in one galaxy. All of these bodies are perfectly synchronized and the most accurate timepiece known to man (Swindol, Come Before Winter, p. 294f.).

Phenomenal. Amazing! The God Who created that and the God Who invaded our space (green pea) to die on a cross for our sin, is the God Who has invited us to worship today. No wonder David asked in amazement, "Why do you care about us humans?" (Ps. 8—CEV). Lord we are in your presence—and we are here only by your mercy and grace. It is only by your mercy and grace that we can worship at all.

The Wise men said—"We have seen His star in the east and we have accepted His invitation. We have come to worship Him" (Mt. 2:2). The presence of God was humanized in Jesus and the wise men encountered Him in worship.

When was the last time you worshiped? You didn’t attend worship—you worshiped. You got higher than the platform, the singers, the preacher—you had an audience, an encounter with God. Worshiping Him is the most significant thing that we can do—it is from worship that everything else flows (service, evangelism, missions, etc.). How often do we really encounter the living God, privately or corporately?

Worship involves seeing what God is worth and then giving Him what’s He’s worth.

Regardless of our backgrounds, the kinds of worship services we were used to growing up—and what we "did" is worship for us (Liturgical, More charismatic, creeds, formal prayers, etc.), age, worship style preferences, new believer, old believer—we worship when our focus is on Him. It is like a bonfire and God is the fire. We are all gathered around the bonfire—with all of our differences, all of our likes and dislikes, all of our "this is the way it should be dones"—and we are warmed, not by looking at each other, but because we are close to Him.

True worship treasures God’s presence. The quest may come from desperation. It may come from joy and delight. It may come from a frantic need for fellowship. But the motivation is clear—I want your presence.

Worship does not happen apart from God-consciousness. We sing a song to initiate thoughts of Him. We pray to initiate thoughts of Him. Preaching is to make us God-conscious (not unconscious). Singing, praying, listening to a solo, listening to a sermon are worshipful activities. They do not automatically make us worship. You can sing and your mind be miles away. We can pray and you can be planning your Christmas menu. I can preach and you can travel around the world or catch up on a nap. No particular action is going to guarantee that we worship. Worship is a God-consciousness in the midst of those things. Nothing exists higher than God. There is nothing else like Him. We owe Him our worship.

We don’t worship form. We worship Him. We don’t worship style. We worship Him. We don’t worship the activities. We worship Him. Genuine worship is to worship Him for Who He is. It is to magnify Him.

One author said, "We are not producing worshipers but spectators, lacking in many cases any memory of an encounter with God." We approach worship as consumers. The focus is on "my experience." So we say, "Wow me; do something to grab my attention; please me; make me laugh; make me emotional", etc. It’s like watching a movie, after which you critique it.

Can you imagine the Israelites, freshly delivered from 400 years of bondage and slavery, before a mountain that shock with the presence of God, saying—"I don’t like the tempo of that song." "How come they don’t use that tambourine song anymore?" "You know I don’t like it when Moses leads; they ought to give Aaron a shot." "All that smoke and shaking—too formal—I like it casual." "Everything was all right except Miriam’s dance—I don’t think things like that should be a part of worship."

Rather, the Scripture says that they were filled with awe and wonder, because in the midst of those ex-slaves was the God of deliverance.

If you are just a spectator, you are not worshiping. If you are just a critic, you are not worshiping.

Those of us who lead want nothing more than to lead you in worship and to remove the distractions that might keep you from worshiping. We owe God our best every time we gather. I would desire that the microphones always work. That every sound be right. That everybody during the worship time would be paralyzed in their legs and bladder. But some distractions will always be there. We have got to look higher.

John Donne wrote, "I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call on and invite God and His angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and His angels for the noise of a fly."

We have got to fight the distractions. If our attention is captured by the form rather than by God, there is always going to be a distraction.

Leaders in worship have to worship. We pray that God will enable us to do that before we come out. If there isn’t enough bass, the mix is not right, if you act like you couldn’t care less, with every movement seen from the platform, it is easy to get distracted. Are we worshiping or are you grading me?

Worship does not happen apart from a consciousness of God and an encounter with Him. We have got to get beyond the horizontal.

There is no greater distraction than our hearts.


Can a person who cannot hear, who cannot see, who cannot kneel, etc., still worship? Yes. Go inward. If worship happens, there must be the right response to God. Worship happens when because of God-consciousness we make the right response to God. We have corporate worship, but it boils down to ‘private" worship and what’s happening in individual heart’s in the roomful of people. Worship must be an experience my heart longs for, seen as a necessary part of my spiritual diet, a celebration of what Christ has done for me, a declaration of worth to Him Who is worthy.

I need to prepare for worship. You prepare for a ball game. You prepare for a sales presentation. You prepare for your vacations. The choir prepares. The worship team prepares. I prepare. We need to prepare ourselves for worship.

Invest fully in every moment that you are here. Don’t wait for something to grab your attention. Tell the Lord that you are fully present, fully listening, confessing, responding—every moment of the time in the worship service.

But worship will not happen if the heart is not right. We can think that the better the music, the singing, the preaching, the better is worship. The quality and genuineness of worship originates in the heart. The quality of worship is based on our character. Do we have a heart for worship? The wise men did. Herod used the same word—"worship"—but he had murder in his heart. If he had found the Christ child, though in the presence of God, he would not have worshipped. If you didn’t worship, don’t be too quick to judge the environment. Check your own heart. God is more interested in the condition of our hearts than the activities for Him here. It does not matter what we do or what we bring, if our hearts are not right with Him.

How dare I come into His presence without confessing my sin. How dare I come apart from humility ( I have not right being in this position apart from the blood of Christ) . How dare I come without praising Him for who He is and rejoicing in His salvation, forgiveness, security, love, etc.

When our hearts respond to God, so may our bodies. True worship humbles the heart and often times it is pride that prohibits our expressions. I am not advocating calisthenics in the church. I am in favor of a childlike liberty in expressing yourself in worship. There is a place of dignity. There is a place for expression. Is clapping ok? Yes, when it is not to applaud men or a response to entertainment but from a heart that has worshipped God and been led to Him. It is an expression of joy, thanksgiving, etc. Is kneeling appropriate? Bowing the head? Lifting hands? In the Scripture it is a posture in prayer (Ps. 28:2; 1 Tim. 2:8); it is an expression of praise (Ps. 63:3,4). Is saying, "Amen" ok? We do not need express ourselves in such a way that we become distractions to someone else, but when our hearts our touched we are going to express it somehow or someway.

CONCLUSION: Worship is God’s gift to us, intended for our blessing and benefit. When we worship, we give back to Him—praise, adoration, our treasures (as the wise men gave theirs—gold, incense and myrrh (Mt. 2:11). If the vertical mandate is achieved, then the horizontal will be accomplished.

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