Thursday, April 4, 2013

What Is True Worship?

To worship God is to recognize his worth or worthiness; to look God-ward, and to acknowledge in all appropriate ways the value of what we see. The Bible calls this activity "glorifying God" or "giving glory to God," and views it as the ultimate end, and from one point of view, the whole duty of man (Psalms 29:2; 96:6; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Scripture views the glorifying of God as a sixfold activity: praising God for all that he is and all his achievements; thanking him for his gifts and his goodness to us; asking him to meet our own and others' needs; offering him our gifts, our service, and ourselves; learning of him from his word, read and preached, and obeying his voice; telling others of his worth, both by public confession and testimony to what he has done for us. Thus we might say that the basic formulas of worship are these: "Lord, you are wonderful"; "Thank you, Lord"; "Please Lord"; "Take this, Lord"; "Yes, Lord"; "Listen everybody!"

This then is worship in its largest sense: petition as well as praise, preaching as well as prayer, hearing as well as speaking, actions as well as words, obeying as well as offering, loving people as well as loving God. However, the primary acts of worship are those which focus on God directly -- and we must not imagine that work for God in the world is a substitute for direct fellowship with him in praise and prayer and devotion.   -James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, July 1986,  P.15

It seems that very few Christians know much about true worship. Charles Stanley once said that he believed that most Christians in most churches have never worshiped God. We go to church, but we don’t worship. We sing songs, but we don’t worship. We listen to sermons, but we don’t worship. All of these things are elements of worship but they are not worship in and of themselves which means that you can do all of them and yet have failed to truly worship God. We Christians often mistake the means of worship for worship itself.

Christians also make the mistake of limiting their worship to one hour each week. And when they come to that service they often come to observe and be entertained. I have been at services that were opened with the following statement: “We want you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the program we have prepared for you.” If the people feel that they were entertained they say they had a good worship service. We have gotten the whole concept of worship backwards. We think that the pastor and worship leaders are the entertainers and we are the audience.

But in true worship we are the performers, the pastors and worship leaders are the directors, and God is the audience. Because our concept of worship is backwards we want to know what’s in it for us. If we are going to truly worship, we must come to the realization that worship is not for us, but for God. Because God desires our worship, we must learn how to worship him.

The word ‘worship’ appears in the Bible for the first time in Genesis 22:5. Worship is not based on my likes or dislikes. It is not based on my personal preferences or priorities. It is based solely on God’s revelation of Himself as it is found in the scriptures. Because true worship is based on the Bible the only question that needs to be asked of our means of worship is -- Are they biblical? The music must be biblical. The sermon must be biblical. The prayers must be biblical.

Why is it so vitally important that our worship be biblical? Allow me to answer that question with a story. James Michener, writing in his book, The Source, tells the story of a man named Urbaal, who was a farmer living about 2200 B.C. He worshiped two gods, one a god of death, the other a goddess of fertility.

One day, the temple priests tell Urbaal to bring his young son to the temple for sacrifice -- if he wants good crops. Urbaal obeys, and on the appointed day drags his wife and boy to the scene of the boy’s “religious execution” by fire to the god of death. After the sacrifice of Urbaal’s boy and several others, the priests announce that one of the fathers will spend next week in the temple, with a new temple prostitute.

Urbaal’s wife is stunned as she notices a desire written more intensely across his face than she had seen before, and she is overwhelmed to see him eagerly lunge forward when his name is called. The ceremony over, she walks out of the temple with her head swimming, concluding that “if he had different gods, he would have been a different man.” (Erwin Lutzer, Pastor to Pastor, p. 89)

Because the kind of God you worship is the kind of person you will become, we must make sure that the God we worship is the God of the Bible and not a god of our own making. The worshiper must study the Bible in order to be a true worshiper. If you want to do more this Sunday than merely singing songs and listening to a preacher talk, then study the Book. If the elements of the service are biblical and you still can’t worship, maybe it is because you haven’t prepared properly.

Scripture: John 4:23-24; 1 John 1:3; James 5:13; Romans 12:1; Revelation 22:9; Matthew 16:24; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 5:8;  Matthew 5:17

Prayer: O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you as the day rises to meet the sun. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen

-special thanks to Steven Dow

Bless you always,


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