by Paul George
Worship has innumerable forms. The Moslem worships Allah in prayer by turning toward Mecca five times a day and repeating the same prayer. At some time in his life, he makes a pilgrimage to Mecca where he will walk around the Kabala seven times and kiss the sacred black stone. A Native American may have worshiped by erecting a totem pole, offering up tobacco in the peace pipe. Satan worshipers allegedly sacrifice infants and use some of the organs of mutilated animals. There are the pagan forms of worship that we find within civilized America. There are those who worship the sun by taking off their clothes in nudist colonies. There are those who would have us understand that they find it much easier to worship God on the golf course, out on the lake or in the woods on Sunday morning. Then, there are those who do not have the foggiest idea what corporate worship really is and why God wants people to worship Him.
Why is the worship of God and knowing how to worship Him important? First, we need to know how to worship God because of the severe consequences of false worship. God rejected Cain’s sacrifice because it was false worship (Genesis 4:5). Three thousand people died in one day because of the false worship of the golden calf fashioned by Aaron (Exodus 32). The kingdom of Israel was divided because of the idolatry and false worship of the nation (1 Kings 11:31-33). The fall of Jerusalem was directly attributable to the apostasy and false worship of the nation (Jeremiah 1:16; 16:11; 22:9). Misdirected worship was the cause of untold hardship and suffering in the Old Testament. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul wrote that God was justified in condemning man because he worshiped in error, he “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Romans 1:25). Satan fell from heaven because he sought worship for himself rather than submission to his Creator. Satan today seeks those who will worship and serve him (cf. Matt. 4:9).
A second reason and the primary reason is because worship is of great importance to God. That is the clear teaching of passages such as John chapter 4. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers (John 4:23).
God is seeking men and women to be worshipers of Him. However, this worship must be worship that is “in spirit and in truth.” It is not enough to be a worshiper of God; God is seeking true worshipers. It is only in the Word of God that we can learn what worship is pleasing to God.
If our worship of God is to be pleasing to Him, we need to know the essence of true worship. In the Bible, there are three primary elements of true worship.
First and most frequently found in the Bible is “humility.” The word “humility” conveys the act of bowing or prostrating oneself in submissiveness and reverence. The outward posture reflecting an inner attitude of humility and respect, it denotes a high view of God and a condescending opinion of self. Thus, true worship views God in His perfection and man in his imperfection.
The second word used in the Bible is “reverence.” The word reverence refers to an attitude, an awareness of our finiteness and sinfulness in the light of His infinity and perfection and a focusing of the awesome majesty of God. Irreverence is an obstacle to worship. No doubt, it was the irreverence of the Corinthians at the Lord’s Table that required such severe discipline as sickness and death (1 Corinthians 11:30). Paul said that they did not ‘judge the body rightly’ (1 Corinthians 11:29). Partaking of the elements that symbolize the body of our Lord in a light or irreverent way is to bring upon ourselves the discipline of God.
The third word is “service,” in the Old Testament this service referred to the service of the priest. In the New Testament we are told that we are all priests of God (1 Peter 2:5,9), so that this term does not apply only to the service of the few, but of the entire congregation of believers in Christ.
Why do we worship God?
From a human viewpoint, worship is something that man devised to give expression to inner desires and needs. From a Biblical viewpoint we worship God because God has revealed Himself to us, we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Love does not find its origin in man, but in God. Our love is only a response of God’s love toward us. We worship God because He has made Himself known to us and has instructed us to worship Him.
Fallen man could never approach a righteous and Holy God, so God in the person of Jesus Christ made us just and righteous by His work on the cross for us (Romans 3:21-24). The Holy Spirit of God works within us to enable us to worship (Philippians 3:3) and worship is directed to the Father (John 4:23). Worship is from God, through God, and unto God. Apart from God’s revelation of Himself and of how man can approach Him in worship, man could never worship God in a way pleasing to Him.
If worship is a response, what is the nature of this response, adoration and praise that God rightfully expects of His creatures? Though worship is an act of the one who has placed his trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ in the present age it is also that which our Lord shall receive from those who reject Him, for in the book of Philippians we read:
“Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 3:9-11).
The second response is sacrifice. When Abraham worshiped God in Genesis chapter 22, the offering was termed worship. The offering of the first fruits was an act of worship (Deuteronomy 26:10). When the wise men came to worship the baby who was the Savior of the world, they came with gifts to give.
In the New Testament, the sacrifice is self. The apostle Paul told the Romans, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).,
What is worship? Worship is the humble response of regenerate men to the self-disclosure of the Most High God, based upon the work of God, achieved through the activity of God, directed to God, expressed by the lips in praise and by the life in service.
The Activities of Worship
First, prayer, although prayer can be worship, it most often falls short of it. Why do our prayers often fall short of true worship? They fall short when they lack adoration and praise, do not focus upon who God is and what He has done. Our prayers fall short of true worship when they are a list of petitions for our needs. This does not mean it is wrong to make our requests known to God for we are instructed to do so (Philippians 4:6). What we need to do is set aside certain times for prayers that are exclusively devoted to adoration and praise.
Second, testimonies, there are some who might question whether or not testimonies would qualify as worship. A testimony that places the spotlight upon us would not be worship. However, as we look at the Psalms, we must recognize that many of them are based upon some experience on the part of the writer. This experience becomes a vehicle that turns the attention of the psalmist to the greatness of his God. He knows that God is merciful and kind not only because the Bible tells him so, but because God has been at work in his life. A testimony is an excellent opportunity to praise God for who He is and what He has done.
Third, singing and music, Israel sang many of their praises to God. The praises of the people were set to music and sung. Music can be used to quiet our hearts and minds and focus them upon God and His goodness. Music can also be an instrument through which our praise and adoration can be expressed to God. However, so-called Christian music is not the music of worship. Some music is worthless, either because of its message or because of its medium. Some music is intended for other purposes than worship such as encouragement and comfort. For example, the song ‘Trust and Obey’ is not directed toward God, but toward the saints. If we intend to worship God in music, let us be careful to select music that focuses upon God and expresses adoration and praise to Him, such as “Great Is Thy Faithfulness’ or “How Great Thou Art.”
If worship is the highest calling of the Christian, how are we living up to our calling? May God enable us to worship Him in spirit and in truth.