Most everyone is familiar with the term “worship”. To some, the word conjures up images of believers falling on their faces, moaning to whatever deity they adhere to – to others, the word means simple songs, sung from the heart – and to still others, the word is ambiguous in nature, floating around an ideal they cannot imagine or describe.
A Biblical definition
Growing up in a Christian household in which we regularly attended our Baptist church, worship, to me, was music. My father, uncle, aunts and grandfather were all musically talented and involved in leading the church’s morning songs, so the term “worship” became synonymous in my mind with my father’s clear, loud voice and my aunts pretty a capella harmony. I took to heart verses like Psalm 108:1: “My heart, O Lord, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.” However, verses like Psalm 96:9 “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.” were foreign and odd to me.
What, I wondered, is true worship?
True worship is not defined by our actions at all. True worship is defined by priority.
What I realized is this: true worship is not defined by our actions at all. True worship is defined by priority. It is a matter of the heart. If we place the highest priority on who God is and live out that dedication in our everyday lives, each action will be worship. It is more than music. It is more than witnessing. It is more than tithing. Worship is submitting to God’s perfection and His will and placing all our burdens on Him, trusting even when it feels foolish, loving even when it hurts. Actions are a necessary part of worship because they are the outward manifestations of our inward heart attitude, but worship is the meaning behind the actions. A worship-filled lifestyle will express the “beauty of holiness” through a love for God that cannot help but seep from within into everything we do.
Why Do We Worship?
The Purpose of Worship
We worship God because he is God. That is the only reason. He is the only God who deserves our utmost respect, love, and, yes, fear – in fact, He is the only one who truly deserves these things from us. We worship Him because he is all-knowing. We worship Him because he is perfect. But we worship God primarily because He loved us first. If you think about it, knowing and believing this one fundamental truth will cause all other forms of worship to flow easily and from the heart.
We worship God primarily because He loved us first.
The Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent Creator God loved us and loves us still, and will always love us. He will always be there and he saved us when we deserved nothing but loneliness, desperation and separation from Him. We must focus our worship – our music, our actions, and our thoughts – on the worthiness of God.
The Promise of Worship
God is infinitely generous. Though we deserve nothing, God chooses to respond to our worship and promises to commune with us. He does not promise to make us feel good or even to lift our burdens immediately, but He promises that He will be there. Imagine, personal communion with the Creator, Redeemer. From beyond the social, beyond the metaphysical, beyond the borders of our mind, God comes, in His own time, as a response to our worship. Psalm 16:7 says “I will bless the Lord who has counseled me…” It is a circular concept, a symbiotic relationship, as it were: if we are living in submission to God’s will and bless him through our lives, He will counsel and commune with His children. He sends the Holy Spirit (John 14:16) to be with us through our worship and our troubles alike. To me, this is one of the most amazing, mind-boggling concepts in Scripture.
Anything else that we expect worship to bring is null if we do not let God first access our innermost thoughts, our soul, the whole of our beings.
To say it plainly, while we are worshiping God, he is inspecting our hearts. Anything else that we expect worship to bring is null if we do not let God first access our innermost thoughts, our soul, the whole of our beings. As Delesslyn Kennebrew from Christianity Today says, our hearts must be right with God in order for true worship to be beneficial. When we worship, we are asking God to make us more and more like him and to weed out anything in us that isn’t. That is the true promise of worship: because he will reveal anything that is not like Him in our lives, we can be slowly and painstakingly transformed into His likeness.
“The other benefits that we tend to expect because we lift up our feeble hands and shout with our weak voices are worthless if our hearts are not right with God. My sisters and brothers, when we offer God our true worship, we are inviting him to inspect our hearts for anything that is not like him.” ~ Delesslyn A. Kennebrew, Christianity Today
Worship is submitting to God’s perfection and His will and placing all our burdens on Him. If you are not living a life in submission to God’s will, then I invite you to make worship a non-negotiable priority in your life. Through singing, declaring, and giving, you will be able to give God the glory that He so deserves (Psalm 96:8). God promises that He will commune with you through worship, but above all, He promises to make your heart more like His. If there is anything that is worthy of emulation, it is God’s heart, and though it will take a lifetime, He promises to help refine you so that you are more and more pleasing to Him.