26 Apr Discussion Guide: Purple Book | Prayer and Worship
Take the first few minutes of your time together to listen to what God is doing in one another’s lives and pray for any specific needs people in your group may have.
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Desire. It is a powerful thing isn’t it? Those things we want, or wish for in life tend to take center stage in our thoughts, motives and behaviors. But, have you ever noticed, like C.S. Lewis comments, that there are certain desires that we can never seem to satisfy on this earth? The desire to be unconditionally loved. The desire to feel significant. They always seem within grasp, but yet just slightly out of reach. Perhaps, as Lewis states, these unrealized desires are simply God’s way of reminding us that we were not made for this world in its current form, but in fact were made for something, or should I say Someone, far greater than anything this world has to offer?
If it’s true that what we desire takes center stage in our lives, then it is also true that what takes center stage in our lives is in fact the object of our worship. And, if that object is anyone, or anything, other than Jesus then not only will we go through life completely unsatisfied, but the weight of that expectation will crush the very object or person we are worshipping because they were never meant to bear the weight that God alone was meant to carry.
In this discussion we will take a look at what it means to worship Jesus, what keeps us from worshipping Him rightly, ways in which we worship, and how we develop a heart of worship.
What is something you are passionate about?
What are some of the driving forces behind your, or other people’s, passions?
How has the word worship been defined in our culture today?
How would you define worship?
Harold Best, Unceasing Worship
“As God eternally outpours within His triune self, and as we are created in His image, it follows that we too are continuous outpourers, incurably so.”
What do you think Best means when he says, “God eternally outpours within His triune self?”
Within the Triune nature of God exists an unending, self-perpetuating, sacrificially loving, perfect community. The Father continually loving the Son and the Spirit, the Son continually loving the Spirit and the Father and the Spirit continually loving the Father and the Son. It’s been said that if you put a cupcake in the middle of the Trinity it would never get eaten because each member of the Godhead would defer to the others for the enjoyment of that sweet treat. In other words, this God who exists as 3 persons is constantly giving of Himself, pouring Himself out for the sake of Himself. The Trinity is a perfect community centered on the worship and glory of God/Himself. He is, by His very nature, eternally outpouring His glory for the sake of HIs glory and for our ultimate joy.
What does it mean for us to be “continuous outpourers?”
Because we are made in the image and likeness of this Triune God then we too are hardwired for community and worship. We have this insatiable need to belong to someone and to give ourselves to something. It is in our DNA. We cannot escape it. We can pervert it or twist it, but we cannot escape the fact that we need to belong to someone and give ourselves to something. This is community and worship. Therefore, we, like the Triune God, are continually pouring ourselves out in the worship of things. That is why we want to feel significant. That is why we make really stupid decisions sometimes. We are looking for someone or something to ascribe ultimate worth to in our lives. It could be money, relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, religion, morality, the opinions of others, etc. It could be any number of things, and many times it is good things that are not inherently evil. But, we cannot resist the temptation to take a good thing and turn it into a god thing, an object of worship, and in doing so it becomes a bad thing. It becomes idolatry.
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
That word glory literally means heaviness or weightiness. What do you think it means for something to have glory (weight) in your life?
For something to have glory, or weight, in your life means it is the most significant thing in your life. It is the thing that takes center stage. It is the thing that “outweighs” everything else. You can know that it is because it is the thing you dedicate your life to and sacrifice for the sake of. Just take a look at your calendar, your bank statement, your Facebook profile or your Twitter and it will give you a good indication as to what that thing is.
What does it look like for Christ to occupy that place of glory in your life?
For Christ to occupy that place of glory is the very heart of worship. It would mean that He outweighs every other relationship, decision, desire or opportunity. It means that the first question you ask when presented with a choice is not, “what most benefits me?” But, “what most glorifies God?” When Christ is at the center then we ask ourselves how can I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and how can love others as myself? For Christ to be at the center is to seek every opportunity to reflect the image of God to the world around us and to represent His kingdom that is to come on earth as it is in heaven.
Harold Best, Unceasing Worship
“We begin with one fundamental fact about worship: at this very moment, and for as long as this world endures, everybody inhabiting it is bowing down and serving something or someone—an artifact, a person, an institution, an idea, a spirit, or God through Christ. Everyone is being shaped thereby and is growing up toward some measure of fullness, whether of righteousness or of evil. No one is exempt and no one can wish to be. We are, every one of us, unceasing worshipers and will remain so forever, for eternity is an infinite extrapolation of one of two conditions: a surrender to the sinfulness of sin unto infinite loss or the commitment of personal righteousness unto infinite gain. This is the central fact of our existence, and it drives every other fact. Within it lies the story of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation or final loss.”
Obstacles to True Worship
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
What are some ways that we, or others, exchange the glory of God for the glory of created things? Why do you think we do this?
What role do you think our desires and our fears play in what does and does not take center stage in our lives?
Here’s how it typically works. Whatever we fear the most becomes our idea of hell on earth, the place we don’t want to go. It could be poverty. It could be obesity. It could be loneliness. It could be celibacy. To avoid going to this “hell” we look for the thing that we think will “save” us. We look to money, diet or exercise, relationships or sex to keep us from experiencing our greatest fear. And, because those things “save” us we then dedicate our lives to possessing them and keeping them and embracing them, and we sacrifice other things for the sake of making that happen. Why? Because, as Paul says in Romans 12, it is what we worship. So, our fears dictate who or what our “savior” will be, and therefore who or what we will worship. If our fear is separation from God then Jesus is our savior and the object of our worship, not out of fear but because of love for what He has done for us. If our fear is anything else then we will find ourselves worshipping creation rather than Creator.
“All of our problems come from disordered loves. So you say a man has murdered someone. Well, what was his motive? Either he wanted something the man had, or had lost something to the man and wanted vengeance. Every man commits murder because he loves something, he loves something too much, and that is the motive of his crime.
When we inquire why a sin was committed we can be assured it is because one has loved that which is inferior to that which is superior. Your loving something as if it were 1st or 2nd when it should be 3rd or 4th, it is sin. All disordered loves lead to brokenness and pain because it violates the very reality of the purpose of creation.”
What are some things that have become, or threaten to become, disordered loves in your life? In other words, what things are you tempted to love more than God?
Ways We Worship
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
What is the point of Scripture?
How does the Truth of God’s Word produce a heart of worship?
[box type=”note” icon=”none”]Leader note: the point of Scripture is to reveal to us who God is, who we are, and what God has done and is doing in His Son, Jesus the Messiah, in establishing His Kingdom on the earth. Within each of these focuses lies the revelation of our need for redemption and salvation. As such, Jesus is the Hero of the story. He is the culmination of all that God is doing in and through His people. So when we read Scripture we ought to be looking for Jesus in every passage. We should be seeking to understand the Gospel and it’s implications on our lives in every chapter. If we are seeing the pages of the Bible correctly then it should be moving us to a place of repentance and faith, love and obedience, sacrifice and joy. It ought to be forming in us a heart of worship.
Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.11 Give us this day our daily bread,12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
How does prayer, specifically this kind of prayer, produce a heart of worship?
Prayer is not just a religious activity. It’s not meant to be the mindless repetition of formulaic phrases in an attempt to manipulate or convince God to do something for us. Prayer is communion with God. It is the acknowledgement that we are utterly dependent on Him for all things. It is the mingling of Heaven and earth in our very hearts. It is like a child enjoying a conversation with his father, with no other agenda than to know and be known. Prayer produces a conditioning in our hearts to a posture of humility and worship because it continually puts us in the place where we are humbled and Christ is exalted.
1 Theselonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always,17 pray without ceasing,18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
How can we pray without ceasing?
prayer doesn’t always have to be a kneeling down and a folding of the hands, it is simply the ongoing acknowledgement of our need for God and the continual open line of communication with Him. Prayer also does not have to be you saying something. Prayer is a conversation, so many times it simply means keeping your ears open to hearing God’s voice and what He might say to you or ask of you in any certain circumstance.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
How does discipleship and Gospel community produce a heart of worship?
We all have blind spots, those areas in our lives that we feel are going well when in reality everything is about to fall apart. That is why we need other people in our lives teaching us, correcting us, helping us, bearing our burdens and us bearing theirs, to keep our hearts moving in the direction of God’s glory. The more we worship Jesus the more we ought to look like Him, and if there are areas where we don’t look like Him then God, by the Holy Spirit and through other human beings, lovingly engages us and calls us to repentance and faith in those areas. Plus, as mentioned before, we are made in the image of a Triune God and therefore cannot fully glorify Him unless we are in relationship with others.
Why We Worship
”It is because Jesus Christ experienced cosmic thirst on the cross that you and I can have our spiritual thirst satisfied. It is because he died that we can be born again. And he did it gladly. Seeing what he did and why he did it will turn away our hearts from the things that enslave us and toward him in worship. That is the gospel, and it is the same for skeptics, believers, insiders, outcasts, and everyone in between.”
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 4:19
We love because he first loved us.
How does the truth of the Gospel, God’s love for us in spite of our idolatrous rebellion, free us from the enslavement of the things of this world and toward Him in worship?”
“Looking at the Gospels, it seems that our Lord Jesus finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
How can we resist the lure of “being far too easily pleased” with the mud pies of this world?