Whatever happened to Worship
by A. W. Tozer
Genuine Worship Involves Feeling
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples
of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus
to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were
men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed,
he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light
from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him,
Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And
the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to
kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what
wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into
the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which
journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no
man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he
was three days without sight, and neither did eat or drink. Acts 9:1-9
HOW LONG DO YOU think it will be, if Jesus tarries, before some of the
amazing new churches like those in the primitive Baliem Valley of Irian
Jaya, Indonesia, will be sending gospel missionaries to Canada and the
United States? If that thought upsets you, you desperately need to read
I have a reason for suggesting this as a possibility at some time in
the future. In Chicago, I was introduced to a deeply serious Christian
brother who had come from his native India with a stirring and grateful
testimony of the grace of God in his life. I asked him about his church
background, of course. He was not Pentecostal. He was neither Anglican
nor Baptist. He was neither Presbyterian nor Methodist. He did not even
know what we mean by the label, "interdenominational." He was simply a
brother in Christ. This Indian had been born into the Hindu religion, but
he was converted to and became a disciple of Jesus Christ by reading and
seriously studying the New Testament record of the death and resurrection
of our Lord. He spoke English well enough to express his Christian concerns
for the world and for the churches. I asked him to speak in my pulpit.
Through that encounter I realized that unless we arouse ourselves spiritually,
unless we are brought back to genuine love and adoration and worship, our
candlestick could be removed. We may need missionaries coming to us, indeed.
We may need them to show us what genuine and vital Christianity is!
We should never forget that God created us to be joyful worshipers,
but sin drew us into everything else but worship. Then in God’s love and
mercy in Christ Jesus, we were restored into the fellowship of the Godhead
through the miracle of the new birth.
"You have been forgiven and restored," God reminds us. "I am your Creator
and Redeemer and Lord, and I delight in your worship." I don’t know, my
friend, how that makes you feel—but I feel that I must give God the full
response of my heart. I am happy to be counted as a worshiper.
Well, that word "feel" has crept in here and I know that you may have
an instant reaction against it. In fact, I have had people tell me very
dogmatically that they will never allow "feeling" to have any part in their
spiritual life and experience. I reply, "Too bad for you!" I say that because
I have voiced a very real definition of what I believe true worship to
be: worship is to feel in the heart!
In the Christian faith, we should be able to use the word "feel" boldly
and without apology. What worse thing could be said of us as the Christian
church if it could be said that we are a feelingless people? Worship must
always come from an inward attitude. It embodies a number of factors, including
the mental, spiritual and emotional. You may not at times worship with
the same degree of wonder and love that you do at other times, but the
attitude and the state of mind are consistent if you are worshiping the
A husband and father may not appear to love and cherish his family with
the same intensity when he is discouraged, when he is tired from long hours
in business or when events have made him feel depressed. He may not outwardly
show as much love toward his family, but it is there, nonetheless, for
it is not a feeling only. It is an attitude and a state of mind. It is
a sustained act, subject to varying degrees of intensity and perfection.
I came into the kingdom of God with joy, knowing that I had been forgiven.
I do know something of the emotional life that goes along with conversion
I well remember, however, that in my early Christian fellowship, there
were those who warned me about the dangers of "feeling." They cited the
biblical example of Isaac feeling the arms of Jacob and thinking they were
Esau’s. Thus the man who went by his feelings was mistaken! That sounds
interesting, but it is not something on which you can build Christian doctrine.
Think of that sick woman in the gospel record who had had an issue of
blood for twelve years and had suffered many things of many physicians.
Mark records that when she had heard of Jesus, she came in the throng and
merely touched His garment. In the same instant "the fountain of her blood
was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague"
(Mark 5:29). Knowing what had been done within her by the Savior, she "came
and fell down before him, and told him all the truth" (Mark. 5:33). Her
testimony was in worship and praise. She felt in her body that she was
healed. Those of us who have been blessed within our own beings would not
join in any crusade to "follow your feelings." On the other hand, if there
is no feeling at all in our hearts, then we are dead! If you wake up tomorrow
morning and there is absolute numbness in Your right arm—no feeling at
all—you will quickly dial the doctor with your good left hand.
Real worship is, among other things, a feeling about the Lord our God.
It is in our hearts. And we must be willing to express it in an appropriate
We can express our worship to God in many ways. But if we love the Lord
and are led by His Holy Spirit, our worship will always bring a delighted
sense of admiring awe and a sincere humility on our part.
The proud and lofty man or woman cannot worship God any more acceptably
than can the proud devil himself. There must be humility in the heart of
the person who would worship God in spirit and in truth. The manner in
which many moderns think about worship makes me uncomfortable. Can true
worship be engineered and manipulated? Do you foresee with me the time
to come when churches may call the pastor a "spiritual engineer"?
I have heard of psychiatrists being called "human engineers," and of
course, they are concerned with our heads. We have reduced so many things
to engineering or scientific or psychological terms that the coming of
"spiritual engineers" is a possibility. But this will never replace what
I have called the astonished wonder wherever worshipers are described in
the Bible. We find much of spiritual astonishment and wonder in the book
of Acts. You will always find these elements present when the Holy Spirit
directs believing men and women. On the other hand, you will not find astonished
wonder among men and women when the Holy Spirit is not present.
Engineers can do many great things in their fields, but no mere human
force or direction can work the mysteries of God among men. If there is
no wonder, no experience of mystery, our efforts to worship will be futile.
There will be no worship without the Spirit.
If God can be understood and comprehended by any of our human means,
then I cannot worship Him. One thing is sure. I will never bend my knees
and say "Holy, holy, holy" to that which I have been able to decipher and
figure out in my own mind! That which I can explain will never bring me
to the place of awe. It can never fill me with astonishment or wonder or
The philosophers called the ancient mystery of the personhood of God
the "mysterium conundrum." We who are God’s children by faith call Him
"our Father which art in heaven." In sections of the church where there
is life and blessing and wonder in worship, there is also the sense of
divine mystery. Paul epitomized it for us as "Christ in you, the hope of
What does happen, then, in a Christian church when a fresh and vital
working of the Spirit of God brings revival? In my study and observations,
a revival generally results in a sudden bestowment of a spirit of worship.
This is not the result of engineering or of manipulation. It is something
God bestows on people hungering and thirsting for Him. With spiritual renewing
will come a blessed spirit of loving worship.
These believers worship gladly because they have a high view of God.
In some circles, God has been abridged, reduced, modified, edited, changed
and amended until He is no longer the God whom Isaiah saw, high and lifted
up. Because He has been reduced in the minds of so many people, we no longer
have that boundless confidence in His character that we used to have.
He is the God to whom we go without doubts, without fears. We know He
will not deceive us or cheat us. He will not break His covenant or change
His mind. We have to be convinced so we can go into His presence in absolute
confidence. In our hearts is this commitment: "Let God be true, but every
man a liar" (Romans 3:4).
The God of the whole earth cannot do wrong! He does not need to be rescued.
It is man’s inadequate concept of God that needs to be rescued. Thankfully
, when God made us in His own image, He gave us the capability to appreciate
and admire His attributes.
I once heard Dr. George D. Watson, one of the great Bible teachers of
his generation, point out that men can have two kinds of love for God—the
love of gratitude or the love of excellence. He urged that we go on from
gratefulness to a love of God just because He is God and because of the
excellence of His character.
Unfortunately, God’s children rarely go beyond the boundaries of gratitude.
I seldom hear anyone in worshipful prayer admiring and praising God for
His eternal excellence. Many of us are strictly "Santa Claus" Christians.
We think of God as putting up the Christmas tree and putting our gifts
underneath. That is only an elementary kind of love. We need to go on.
We need to know the blessing of worshiping in the presence of God without
thought of wanting to rush out again. We need to be delighted in the presence
of utter, infinite excellence.
Such worship will have the ingredient of fascination, of high moral
excitement. Plainly, some of the men and women in the Bible knew this kind
of fascination in their fellowship with God. If Jesus the Son is to be
known and loved and served, the Holy Spirit must be allowed to illuminate
our human lives. That personality will then be captured and entranced by
the presence of God.
What is it that makes a human cry out:
"O Jesus, Jesus, dearest Lord!
Forgive me if I say,
For very love, Thy sacred name
A thousand times a day."
"Burn, burn, O love, within my heart,
Burn fiercely night and day,
Till all the dress of earthly loves
Is burned, and burned away."
Those expressions came from the worshiping heart of Frederick W. Faber.
He was completely fascinated by all he had experienced in the presence
and fellowship of a loving God and Savior. He was surely filled with an
intensity of moral excitement. He was struck with wonder at the inconceivable
magnitude and moral splendor of the Being whom we call our God.
Such fascination with God must necessarily have an element of adoration.
You may ask me for a definition of adoration in this context. I will say
that when we adore God, all of the beautiful ingredients of worship are
brought to white, incandescent heat with the fire of the Holy Spirit. To
adore God means we love Him with all the powers within us. We love Him
with fear and wonder and yearning and awe.
The admonition to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart... and with
all thy mind" (Matthew 22:37) can mean only one thing. It means to adore
Him. I use the word "adore" sparingly, for it is a precious word. I love
babies and I love people, but I cannot say I adore them. Adoration I keep
for the only One who deserves it. In no other presence and before no other
being can I kneel in reverent fear and wonder and yearning and feel the
sense of possessiveness that cries "Mine, mine!"
They can change the expressions in the hymnals, but whenever men and
women are lost in worship they will cry out, "Oh God, thou art my God;
early will I seek thee" (Psalm 63:1). Worship becomes a completely personal
love experience between God and the worshiper. It was like that with David,
with Isaiah, with Paul. It is like that with all whose desire has been
to possess God.
This is the glad truth: God is my God.
Brother or sister, until you can say God and I, you cannot say us with
any meaning. Until you have been able to meet God in loneliness of soul,
just you and God—as if there was no one else in the world—you will never
know what it is to love the other persons in the world.
In Canada, those who have written of the saintly Holy Anne said, "She
talks to God as if there was nobody else but God and He had no other children
but her." That was not a selfish quality. She had found the value and delight
of pouring her personal devotion and adoration at God’s feet.
Consecration is not difficult for the person who has met God. Where
there is genuine adoration and fascination, God’s child wants nothing more
than the opportunity to pour out his or her love at the Savior’s feet.
A young man talked to me about his spiritual life. He had been a Christian
for several years, but he was concerned that he might not be fulfilling
the will of God for his life. He spoke of coldness of heart and lack of
spiritual power. I could tell that he was discourage—and afraid of hardness
of heart. I gave him a helpful expression which has come from the writings
of Bernard of Clairvaux: "My brother, only the heart is hard that does
not know it is hard. Only he is hardened who does not know he is hardened.
When we are concerned for our coldness, it is because of the yearning God
has put there. God has not rejected us."
God puts the yearning and desire in our hearts, and He does not turn
away and thus mock us. God asks us to seek His face in repentance and love
and we then find all of His gracious fullness awaiting. In God’s grace,
that is a promise for the whole wide world. You have read of Blaise Pascal,
the famous seventeenth century French scientist often classed as one of
the six great thinkers of all time. He was considered a genius in mathematics,
and his scientific inquiry was broad. He was a philosopher and a writer.
But best of all, he experienced a personal, overwhelming encounter with
God one night that changed his life.
Pascal wrote on a piece of paper a brief account of his experience,
folded the paper and kept it in a pocket close to his heart, apparently
as a reminder of what he had felt. Those who attended him at his death
found the worn, creased paper. In Pascal’s own hand it read: From about
half-past ten at night to about half-after midnight—fire! O God of Abraham,
God of Isaac, God of Jacob—not the God of the philosophers and the wise.
The God of Jesus Christ who can be known only in the ways of the Gospel.
Security—feeling—peace—joy—tears of joy. Amen
Were these the expressions of a fanatic, an extremist? No Pascal’s mind
was one of the greatest. But the living God had broken through and beyond
all that was human and intellectual and philosophical. The astonished Pascal
could only describe in one word the visitation in his spirit: "Fire!"
Understand that this was not a statement in sentences for others to
read. It was the ecstatic utterance of a yielded man during two awesome
hours in the presence of his God.
There was no human engineering or manipulation there. There was only
wonder and awe and adoration wrought by the presence of the Holy Spirit
of God as Pascal worshiped.
What we need among us is a genuine visitation of the Spirit. We need
a sudden bestowment of the spirit of worship among God’s people.
The European Prophetic College.
A. W. Tozer was pastor of the largest Christian and Missionary Alliance
church in America based in Chicago. His sermons have been inspirational
to many outside the CM&A circle. I knew someone who said that he
has a friend who knew Tozer as a personal
friend, and who would be the first to say that Tozer was a modern prophet
calling to church back to pure worship. The CM&A website at http://www.gospelcom.net/cmalliance/
contains some Tozer devotionals.
Teri Lee Earl
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