The Bible is filled with commands to worship God joyfully. Let me give you some examples,
Ps. 47:1 Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
Ps. 32:11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!
Ps. 66:1-2 Shout with joy to God, all the earth! 2 Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!
Psalm 150 1 Praise the Lord, Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. 2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. 3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, 5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord
Did you hear all the words to describe worship: clapping, shouting, cries of joy, singing, trumpets, harps, lyres, tambourines, strings, flutes, cymbals and even (don’t tell the Baptists . . . ) dancing! [facetiously] Sounds just like our worship doesn’t it?
Jesus told us that He came to give us abundant life. Paul said we should “rejoice in the Lord always” and we should sing using Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs (there should be variety in our music). Heaven is described as a giant choir singing in praise to the Lord. Throughout the Bible the people are urged to raise their hands, to clap, and to celebrate.
Worship should be joyful. This morning we want to look at the reasons for joyful worship and then consider how we should pursue this joyful worship.
REASONS FOR JOYFUL WORSHIP
Turn with me to a great text, Psalm 100. In this text we see a summons to worship joyfully,
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Notice several things from this Psalm. First, notice the seven imperative verbs that describe what God desires,
- Shout joyfully
- Worship with gladness
- Come with joyful songs
- Know that He is God
- Enter His gates with Thanksgiving
- Give Thanks
- Praise His name
When the Psalmist invites the people to shout joyfully he is not saying that we should simply go around screaming in worship. We have all been around children who are always screaming and making noise. It gives us a headache. That’s not what God wants from us. Worship is to be done decently and in order.
Let me illustrate what I think God wants. Think about a sporting event. The game comes down to the wire and your team wins. What happens next is joyful shouting. You rejoice with the team, you celebrate an accomplishment; you cheer those who are responsible. We don’t usually think of responding to God this way. Spurgeon, who usually gets right to the point, says it well.
“Serve the Lord with gladness,” this is a point to which the mere carnal mind never did attain, and never will. Any connection between religion and gladness seems to the most of men to be very remote indeed. Many people attend to their “religion,” as they call it, but it is downright slavery. They go up to their place of worship because it is a terrible necessity of custom that respectable people should meet in certain fixed places on the Sabbath; but they are glad when the service is short-exceedingly glad if it could be made so short as to be omitted altogether. They look upon their religious exercises as a tax which they pay to God, or rather, as a tax which they pay to respectability, for living in a country where so many think it right to profess the Christian faith. The worldly religionists’ service has no gladness in it. “Serve the Lord with gladness” seems to the carnal mind to be a perfect monstrosity; and yet, mark you, this is the test between the genuine and the hypocritical professor-by this one thing shall you know who it is that fears God, and who it is that does but offer him the empty tribute of his lips. 
The Psalmist gives two main reasons to worship joyfully. First, We should rejoice because of the deeds of God. The Psalmist says, “He has Made Us; we are His”.
Every Mother’s Day we celebrate our moms. We do this because our mother labored to bring us into the world. They fed us, took care of us, and loved us. Our mom’s protected us, fought for us, and sacrificed for us. We should celebrate them.
How much more should we celebrate the Lord? He is the one who has given us life in our Mother’s womb. He is the One who gave us parents to care for us. He created joy, delight, pleasure, celebration, and love just for us. He made us so we could enjoy His creation. For believers, He has not only made us, He has re-made us. He has made us new creatures in Christ. He has thrown off the shackles of sin from our lives and made it possible for us to know new and abundant life.
But it is more than this. Not only has God created us, He has also made us His own. We are His. What a great picture this is. Think about how much fun it is to be with someone who has special access: a person who has great seats at a game, the one who can get us back stage passes at a concert, or the one who can introduce us to a special someone. At those times we like to say, “I’m with him!” It is a wonderful privilege and honor. How much greater the honor is to be known as one who belongs to the Creator of the universe!
When we belong to Him we have nothing to fear. No matter what the crisis of our life we can rejoice because we know that we are His. He has promised that nothing will separate us from His love; He has promised He would never leave us. He has promised that all things will work for good in our lives. We can dance, we can shout, we can clap like a little kid at a birthday party because we belong to the Lord.
Let me give you another image that some might think crude but may be more appropriate than you think. Think about the family dog. When you are gone, the dog waits for you and watches for you. When they see you, what happens? Their tail begins to wag wildly. Why? They are filled with joy because they know that you are the one who cares for them. You are the one who provides for them. You are the one who loves them. When they see you, they know they will be well taken care of. They can’t help but rejoice.
We should be the same way as we gather to worship. We have come to meet with the Father and that should make our hearts wag with joyful anticipation. Of course there are many other things that God does: He gives strength in difficult times, salvation to all who will receive it, healing to broken bodies, children to enjoy, His Word to guide us, and the privilege of being part of the work of His Kingdom.
We Should Rejoice Because of the Character of God
Dr. Sproul writes,
I am convinced that the most profound reason why worship has declined goes beyond the often identified problems of archaic language and adjusting to unfamiliar rituals. I am persuaded that worship has become irrelevant to multitudes of people because people are bored by a God they really don’t know; therefore they consider him irrelevant.
If we want to worship joyfully, we must remind ourselves of who this Great God really is.
The Lord is Good (v.5). Let this sink in. If you lived in a city that was ruled by a vicious King, you would not rejoice when he came to town. Imagine living in a town in Iraq when Saddam Hussein and his forces rolled into town. You would be fearful because you would not know whether he was coming to celebrate you or destroy you. How much different when a good leader comes to town. You rejoice because you know the leader cares and wants to help.
God is awesome and He is the Judge of the Universe, however, because of our relationship with Jesus Christ, we do not fear Him in the sense of being terrified by Him. His sure rule is actually a comfort to us. It reminds us that wrongs will be righted; evil will not win. Though we may feel beat up by life, and that we are “getting the short end of the stick”, yet we rejoice because we know that this is temporary. We know this because God is Good.
His love endures forever (5b). Isn’t this a great statement? We rejoice and give thanks to God for our families because they see us on our good days and on our bad days but they still love us. There is a wonderful security in feeling safe in the love of another. Such is the case with God. We know that nothing will separate us from His love . . Nothing. He will still love us even when we stumble, when we fail, and when we fall short. Though the entire world turns against us, God will not. This is an incredible truth that should provoke joy in our hearts.
He is faithful through all generations (5c). In other words, God is perfectly consistent and always dependable. We don’t have to worry about God having a bad day or a bad century. He fulfills His promises. He is always available to His children. He is always eager to hear our requests.
We live in a society that is always changing. Things and people we thought we could always count on let us down. The storms of life blow us all over the place. But in the chaos of life there is an anchor. That anchor is God’s sure faithfulness. We can depend and rely on Him.
Of course there are many other character traits of God that should provoke joy in our hearts: His incredible mercy (extended to those who deserve wrath), His flawless righteousness, His awesome Holiness, and His incomparable wisdom just to name a few. If we understand who God is, we should have joyful anticipation when we have the opportunity to meet with Him.
PURSUING JOYFUL WORSHIP
If we want to know this kind of joyful worship, several things must happen. First, we must not confuse Joyfulness with Activity. When we confuse true joy with activity we spend all our time searching after that something that will excite us. It may be a new purchase, a new experience, or a new mate. It’s a vicious treadmill. The same thing can happen in our worship. We look for newer songs, more creative activities, and more powerful programs. However, if we look for joy in these things we will always discover that our joy will be temporary. The novelty of these things will eventually wear off. We will find ourselves always looking for something new to get us excited about our worship. This is a treadmill that many churches are running upon. They are constantly looking for ways to excite the congregation. It’s a dead end street. Our joy is not to be found in the things we do, but in the God we worship.
Joyful worship should certainly be evidenced in our expressions such as shouting, singing, and dancing but those things are not joy . . . they are expressions of joy. You can be just as joyful being quiet and warmly content in the Lord.
My point once again is this: joyful worship starts in the heart. Don’t look for things to provoke joy . . . look for God! Music is a great stimulus to joyful worship but you shouldn’t need music for joyful worship. We should be able to worship God joyfully with music or without. Joy is the fruit of relationship.
Second, we must make time to recount our blessings and remember the greatness of God. We have forgotten what a privilege it is to meet with God! We forget that the invitation to “come into His presence” is a formerly uncommon and staggering invitation. In the days of Israel only the High Priest was able to go into God’s presence and then only once a year. Only prophets spoke to God with regularity. The idea of being invited into His presence was too incredible to imagine. That invitation has been extended to us. We shouldn’t take it for granted.
On occasion I like to pause before prayer to look around the room. I see pictures of family which remind me of how blessed I am. I see books that remind me of the many people God has brought into my life to instruct me and enrich me. I see the comforts of home. I see the sunlight flooding in from the sky or even the gentle rain which nourishes the earth. These things remind me of how good, gracious, kind, and faithful God has been. If I pause to think about where I would be without Him I am humbled and am filled with joy once again. Worship is a natural response. We need to prepare our hearts for worship.
If you are merely here today logging your time to score points with God, then it is not surprising if worship leaves you somewhat cold. You need to know Him as the One who cleanses you from your sin and makes you into a new person. If you feel joyless in worship, may I ask: “Have you ever met the object of our worship? Have you ever come to put your faith truly in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?” If not, I encourage you to begin a new relationship with God, one not based on formal ritual but based on a personal relationship of love.
I have to admit that this message pushes me beyond my comfort zone. I am not by nature a demonstrative person. I’m uncomfortable in places where there is a lot of activity and a lot of noise in worship. When I am working I don’t have music on in the background. I like quiet so I can think, reflect, and wonder.
You may be different. You may be a person who needs to express yourself. You may be one of those people who needs to physically touch everyone you talk to. You bounce to music, and you are always active. You want a worship that is fast paced. You can’t conceive of too much music. You want to respond with an “amen” or “right on”. You are comfortable with raising and clapping your hands in praise.
The Bible is not trying to tell us that one of us is wrong and the other is right.
Different people express joy in different ways. Some are demonstrative; others are reflective. Some are boisterous; others are quiet. Some are self-conscious; others are not. People are different and it only stands to reason that their expression of worship will be different.
So here’s what I conclude: God wants us to respond to Him honestly. We must respect the people around us in corporate worship, but we must also remember that we are not here for the people around us, we are here to honor the Lord. So if you need to say “Amen!” Do it! But don’t do it to prove you are spiritual, do it as a way of affirming the great truth of the gospel. If you want to raise your hands in praise to God . . . do so. If you want to sing loud . . . let it rip. If you want to bounce and do a little dance . . . dance before the Lord! As you do, realize that your response is not a sign of your spirituality . . . your heart is the true indicator of your worship. Your response is more about your personality than your devotion.
And if you don’t want to say “Amen”, if you don’t feel comfortable raising your hands, if you don’t want to sing loud or bounce around. Don’t. In the quiet of your inner self celebrate the Lord in a way that is honest and appropriate to you.
Our job is not to evaluate each other’s preference or style of worship. Our job is adore, celebrate and honor the God who created us and called us His own.