Melodie Edwards, WEBC Worship Leader

What first comes to mind when you hear the word worship? Is it music? Is it an emotional experience? Is it a lofty task that you feel you can almost never live up to? There are many ways in which we think about worship, whether they are rightly informed or not.

Let’s look at what Scripture has to say about worship.

 Throughout the Psalms we are given commands to worship God. Psalm 29:1-2 says, “Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” The word worship comes from worth-ship, meaning to give worth to something or someone. David is telling us in the psalm that God is worthy of our praise and that glory is due to his name!  Again, David praises God in Psalm 86:8-10 saying, “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.” So, worship starts not with us, but with God and His worthiness. When we worship God, we are rightfully responding to who He is and what He has revealed about Himself. When we worship God, we are acting in accordance with what is true about reality – God is worthy of praise. As Psalm 145:3 says, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.”

What else does Scripture say about worship?

In John chapter 4, Jesus is speaking with a woman from Samaria about worship. He tells her, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” Jesus seems to place heavy emphasis that we worship in spirit and in truth. When we worship God, it is of utmost importance that we have a right understanding of who it is that we are worshiping. That is why the Word of God must inform our thinking and our worship. It ought to fuel the lyrics of our songs so that we are singing truth when we worship through music. Jesus is also asking us to worship from an authentic heart. In Matthew 15:8–9, Jesus speaking of the Pharisees says, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me.” Jesus wants an authentic response of worship from us from our heart and not just outwardly like the Pharisees.

Now, if the first thought that came to your mind about worship was music, I can understand.

I think that is because often when we talk about worship, especially in the context of the church, we are usually referring to the music portion of the service. While singing to God through song is most certainly a part of our worship, it is not the whole. In pastor Bob Kauflin’s book True Worshipers, he comments, “For those of us who think of worship primarily in terms of musically driven emotional experiences, Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan woman should be eye-opening. Jesus is talking about “true worshipers” and he doesn’t reference music once. Not a whisper of bands, organs, keyboards, choirs, drum sets, guitars, or even lutes, lyres, and timbrels….

We’ll get to music, but we don’t start with it. Music is a part of worshiping God, but it was never meant to be the heart of it.” Wow. Wait, so worship is more than just the 30 minutes of music we sing on Sunday mornings? Absolutely. It’s much more. Sure, the psalms are full of language about praising God with the stringed instruments and with our voices in song, but this is just one aspect of how we worship God! But worship, in fact, is the whole of our lives as Christians. Paul says in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  We give our lives as a sacrifice to God in worship. We worship as we work. We worship as we rest. We worship as we commune with family and friends. We worship as we share our faith with others. We worship as we eat, giving thanks to God for his good and pleasing gifts! Colossians 3:17 puts it this way, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

The truth is, we are all worshipers of something.

We can’t ever get away from the pursuit of worship. It is in our very nature as human beings. We were created to be worshipers of God. However, sin has distorted the rightful direction of our worship. In the foreword of True Worshipers, songwriter Matt Redman states, “Worship is one of the ultimate themes of this life, but it is never a question of whether worship will or won’t occur in the heart of a human being. It’s more a case of whether that worship will travel in the proper direction and end up in the right place. It’s guaranteed that everyone on the planet will be an extravagant worshiper of some kind, sacrificially spending themselves in a life of desire and devotion. But it’s by no means guaranteed that their worship will travel along the right paths. People will find a way to worship anything and everything. But all the time, God is calling us back to himself, back to being the God reflectors and image bearers we were meant to be. He is the only One worthy of our worship. As C.S. Lewis reminded us, idols inevitably break the hearts of their worshipers. But not so when we worship Jesus – of course the complete opposite occurs, and we find ourselves in a place of fulfillment and satisfaction.” So, how about you? What consistently steals the affections of your heart? What do you spend time thinking about? What or who do you worship? Let us be reminded that Jesus is the only rightful Receiver of our worship! He is the One who sacrificed Himself for us, so that we could be forgiven and made right with God. Jesus is our Great High Priest who is always interceding for us, who makes worshiping God possible for us (Hebrews 10:19-22).

So, what is worship? All in all, we were made to worship our God.

In fact, to worship Him is also our greatest good! John Piper says it well: “Worship is what we were created for. This is the final end of all existence – the worship of God. God created the universe so that it would display the worth of His glory. And He created us so that we would see this glory and reflect it by knowing and loving it – with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. The church needs to build a common vision of what worship is and what she is gathering to do on Sunday morning and scattering to do on Monday morning.” Worship doesn’t end after the Sunday morning service. It is the life lived by the Christian, day in and day out. And God is worthy of our worship and our lives!

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