The Discipline of Worship
What is worship?
In the common definition, per the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, we find: To regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.
We really are prone to worship anything or anyone, such as self, money, popularity, career, education, pleasure. We are what we love. We “worship” what we love. We are what we worship.
John 4:4 records an encounter for us between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. Worship is a big part of their conversation. In the scriptures, worship is essentially an expression of reverence and adoration of God. In this encounter, Jesus calls us to worship in "spirit and truth".
Contextually, I believe the point is when we worship God, we do so with the right heart, the right attitude, which is one of great reverence. Like the picture we get from Isaiah’s encounter when he is before the throne of God. Isaiah’s immediate response to being in God’s presence is complete reverence for the holiness of God. Check out Isaiah 6. That’s the spirit part of this... it is our spirit, not a reference to the Holy Spirit. Worship is always about God, not us and whether we got anything out of it.
Worshipping in truth, is essentially having no other gods before God. Certainly truth pertains to something beyond just going through the motions of worship. It is really hard to worship God when we split our devotion to Him with something temporal or material. Truth in worship to God is the fulfillment of the greatest command... to love God with all our might and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
In the NT church, God does not give us any specific directive as to the form of worship other than to worship in spirit and truth. It doesn't matter what your preference is on the form of worship such as the style of music or the order or a service, the key thing is to worship God in spirit and truth... the form is only a vehicle to get us to worship God, the "form" is not the worship itself.
So, using the common application of worship, we can worship many things other than God. You may have heard the phrase or expression, “He worships the ground she walks on”, to signify someone’s perception of how a man could feel or behave about a woman. Obviously, the reverse is true.
We are designed by God to worship. Worship is totally natural, it’s a biproduct of our humanness created in God’s image. God wants us to worship Him and Him alone. Check out Matthew 4:10 near the end of the temptations Satan is throwing at Jesus:
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
What were the objects of worship Satan was placing before Jesus during this encounter? Can you identify them?
The toxic atheist will accuse God of being narcissistic and express it in totally negative terms. I believe God loves you and me just as much as he loves himself. The truth is, if we do not worship God alone then we are humanly narcissistic, and that is something really troubling. It is the springboard of everything evil.
Interesting note-when does Satan stop tempting Jesus? When Jesus resisted three times and affirms that only God is worthy of worship. So, persevere, “resist the devil and he will flee from you”... James said this, the brother of Jesus by the way. The point here is persevering, not that you have to resist exactly three times to be successful.
Worship is intended to be both emotional, physical, and mental...
Matthew 22:37-Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.”
1 Cor. 14:15- So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.
2 Sam. 6:14- Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might...
Scriptures are filled with examples of lying prostrate, standing, kneeling, lifting the hands, clapping, lifting the head, bowing, dancing, wearing sack cloth and ashes...
What are outward and inward signs of worship of only God? Well, how about the simple answer God gives through Paul in Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
Steps into worship:
• Practice the presence of God daily in your life
• Different forms, alone, small groups, corporate... offer up praise and thanks
• Prepare for corporate gatherings... be rested, open, ready to give
• Give it all to God, even if it is not your “style”. Give God thanks for diversity
• Cultivate holy dependency... anything can happen
• Absorb distractions with gratitude... a crying baby is not a nuisance, but a reminder of God’s gift of life
• Learn to sacrifice... overcome the attitude of “not feeling like it”
If worship does not propel us into greater love, greater obedience, then we have not worshipped the Lord.
Still to come: