Do you know what Worship is?
Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Psalm 50; Psalm 65:13; 79:13; 95:6-7; 100; 150; Matthew 4:10; 2:2,11; 14:33; John 4:23; 9:35-38; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 4
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100).
Worship is a covenant and call from our Lord to come before Him and meet with Him with reverence, gladness, and joy. It is a call to know Him intimately and express appreciation to Him with praise and thanksgiving, doing so with passion, sincerity, conviction, and in reverent fear and trembling. Worship is the aptitude, attitude, and practice of expressing the desire to know our Lord and Savior further, and being grateful for Who He Is and what He has done for us. Worship is the giving of our best to Him. And, we do this because we are His; we give Him our heart that is already His. He has given His best to us already; in addition, we are enveloped into His eternal love and care for pure and useful purposes.
Psalm 100 gives us a general overview of what worship is. First, this Psalm calls us to worship, summoning us to appear before and meet with God. In so doing, we recognize who He is, as He is the Audience, Object, and Focus of our worship. The Psalm then tells us that we are to be passionate about Him. This is not an emotional response, although it can be; it is more of a commitment to follow Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Our response is our duty from a heart He made in us. It is also a responsibility and a delight; we do it even when we do not feel like it because we do it to please Him and we find joy in that. Worship is giving our respect to Christ and expressing our joy for Who He is. We are the people whom He has made and redeemed so that as individuals, we can worship and honor Him in our hearts and attitudes, then come together collectively to praise and honor Him as Lord of our lives.
The next thing this Psalm tells us is to realize that worship has a real, effectual purpose to discover and glorify God as LORD over all, including our daily lives, even when we do not see it. He is the center and reason for our worship; He is the principle center of attention, the focal point, the centrality, and the Supreme One we reference, acknowledge, and glorify. Worship is our opportunity to commune with Him, to be in union with Him who is the Lord and Creator of all, to come into His presence at His throne room and allow our hearts to be broken so we can give Him our best, our primary attention, and our foremost adoration. And, we do this with exuberance; that is, we bring Him our excitement along with our reverence. It is about His greatness, holiness, and sovereignty and our realization, with trembling and telling Him so, of His awesome nature. We must see His holiness in contrast to our sin, His love for us, and our unworthiness to receive it, so our fear and joy can be shown to Him.
Oh, the incredible assurance, the inconceivable hope, His offering to us (who are unworthy yet we receive it anyway) of His incomprehensible love and His incalculable faithfulness! We can know for certain, regardless of what we have seen or experienced, that our God is good. He is compassionate, and He loves us. He is kind, He cares, He does not condemn us when we deserve it, and He is Worthy beyond measure to receive our praise. Then, we can convey our earnest gratitude to Him, all in deep, real, authentic joy. Worship is joy because we are in Him and for Him, and here our joy is exuberance (Psalm 24; Hab. 2:20; Matt. 4:10; 6:6; Rom. 8).
Do You Know What Worship Is?
When the average Christian thinks about worship, they tends to think about music or how a service is planed out. Perhaps a favorite hymn comes to mind or a praise song that captivated him or her in some moving response. This is sad so to speak, for music, as wonderful and impacting as it can be, is not worship. It is an expression of worship, but it is not worship. Worship is the attitude of our hearts in gratefulness for who our Lord Jesus Christ is and what He has done for you and me, and our commitment to express it with an attitude of gratitude in our daily lives. And, of course, we can use music to do this; however, true worship is meeting with Him, our heart pouring out to His. In application, worship is also the entirety of the church worship service; the reciting of creeds, liturgy, and the administration of the sacraments such as the Lord's Supper, the message, and prayer.
The problem many of us face in understanding and doing worship is we miss the main point. We get so caught up in the mechanics and formal preparations that we miss the reason for our coming together for worship. We, as pastors and leaders, seek to please our congregation with the latest movements in music worship and PowerPoint selections, so we center our worship on pleasing people, captivated by minor things and forgetting whom the main audience is. We place ourselves as the center reason for worship in our wants and desires, and forget its purpose.
Others think that worship is boring, or dread it, and thus neglect it. Do you think worship is boring? Do you dread dragging the kids to church with all the hassles that go with it? "For what?" you say. Perhaps, we become hard or disappointed with God and no longer feel like worshiping Him. Conceivably, we may only be interested in emotional reactions-how we feel and what we get-so there is no real, active, heartfelt participation on our part. Perhaps, the song selection and the melodic, correct, and favored instruments and harmony are not the problem; rather, it is our attitude and limited knowledge of what we are to do and be in worship.
There is no place in Scripture where someone encounters God and says it is not relevant or he or she is bored. If we become bored in our church, possibly it is our reverence and attitude that is wrong; perhaps our passion has disappeared. Worship becomes boring or a hassle because we want to be pleased, or because we yearn for whatever the latest happenings are and we are not receiving them. But, we have to realize that boredom comes from a heart that is detached from the focus and object of the worship, which is Christ. We are not paying attention to the One we should. Our boredom is a personal and spiritual problem of a lost focus, or of carelessness or laziness. It is like an addiction to the latest fad and what moves us rather than what we are to bring. We must reengage our hearts and minds, be renewed to Christ, and be satisfied by what He has done in us. When we worship, we are to respond to Him and only to Him. It comes down to our surrendering our will over to His, so He is more and we are submitted to Him (Isaiah 59:16; Psalm 34:8; 63:1-4; John 3:30; Rom. 12).
Yes, we can and should strive to make our worship services more engaging, more excellent, and be our best for His highest. But, it is not about how we do it; it is about why we do it. Good worship is not about the "right things" as we see it; it is about being right in Christ and expressing our gratitude to Him. Our hearts need to be engaged in bringing our joy and gladness to and for Him as the object of our worship. Our desire needs to be satisfied by being in His presence, not by the melodies, the tunes, or the forms and procedures. We come into the Lord's presence with joy and exuberance from a heart of gratitude-not because of the pleasing sounds of the worship band or organ, or getting what we want from it. Never let worship be just an emotional response to the music, how the service is structured, or what we are used to; if this is so, you and your church have missed the point by a very large degree!
The bottom line of effectual, true worship of our Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord comes down to being God-centered and not self-centered, as in only interested in meeting the needs of those who come and not Who we are to proclaim. Worship is more a matter of substance than of form; authentic worship will spill out to all parts of our lives. It helps us focus on Christ and then embrace what we are called to do in life. Worship is not just what we do in the church; rather, it is what we do in our Christian lives. We then allow that attitude to climax in our worship services as we seek Him with our gratitude, delight, and affection.
Real worship is about Jesus as the Giver and the Receiver, knowing and practicing Him, not us. We are not to be selfish or self-centered in how we approach God. We are not to focus on what concerns or satisfies us; rather, our focus should be on how we come to Him and meet with Him-all to please Him. It has been said so well by St. Francis: it is in giving that we receive. Church and worship are not about what is offered to us or what we can get out of it; they are about how we offer ourselves to God. If we understand this, we please and honor our Lord and build a healthy, vibrant, Christ-centered church. If we do not get this, we play into the consumer mentality of current church trends and thinking that disrespects God and greatly miss the point of who and why we are Christians.
Worship Means We Are to Glorify Our Lord
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:13-15)
Our chief purpose in life is to give Christ glory; this is what these passages are all about. This is proclaimed in Scripture (Psalm 73:25-28; 1 Cor. 10:31; Rom. 11:36), in our confessions of faith, and must be so in the practice of our faith. Again, it is not about us, it is about Him! To worship Christ is to identify us in His purpose and will, not in ours. The key component, which is overlooked by some for dramatic effect and selfish inclinations, is who the focal point is. It must not be very convenient for some I guess, and when the church does not yield to this strong premise, we will fall to our own schemes and thus fail with His call. We may take pleasure in false emotional and sociological phenomena, but to deny the Glory to Christ is a very dangerous move that will turn and bite us hard later.
It is interesting to note that many false teachers use these verses out of their context to proclaim that God is a divine bellhop who delivers to us our whims and desires-that we seek Him to please ourselves and get what we want. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no guarantee that God will give us anything, and we certainly do not deserve anything. Out of His grace will come splendors and treasures for us in His time, perhaps in this life, but certainly in the life to come. It is this same perverted thinking that twists what worship is, falsifies who Christ is, and misrepresents how we are to approach Him.
What we need to ask ourselves is if the glory of God is in our mindset when we sit in our churches and begin to worship? If not, why not? To begin our worship, our minds need to be focused on Him, with the will and desire to glorify Christ. Perhaps we should ask ourselves, what enchants me? What is my pleasure? Where is my treasure? Where is my gain? These questions will show our character and where we receive our drive and thinking. These are the guidelines that motivate our designs and decisions, and how we treat our Lord and one another. This is also how collectively, we as a body of believers will treat our neighbors and one another. Having a mindset of glorifying Christ will affect all we do in life. It will enhance our relationships, center our church, and cause us to be more fruitful in what He has for us.
Remember that the essential element in worship is that all who proclaim God as Lord must also be devoted to Him. That is, we must love Him, we respect Him, and we fear (as in awe) and reverence Him. We are to worship Him and only Him in glory, and what He has done in deeds. We can take comfort and assurance that the worship we have toward the Father does not fall on deaf ears. We are meeting with our Father and not a tyrant. We are to seek His presence, apply it to ourselves, and then to others. Then, the blessings will abound and we can be the church we should be-a heartfelt, God-exalting church that really worships (Ex. 3:14-15; 15:11; Isa. 6:3; 41:4; John 20:28; Rev. 1:4-6).
Worship Means We Are to Fear our Lord
We are to "Fear God." This means we are to reverence God as our Lord, not as an afterthought, when it is convenient or to regard as just as a "pal." This is a principle aspect of worship we must take seriously and heed. We are to come before God in this way, along with humbleness (1 Pet. 5:6). We bring Him our endearment and respect with more meaning, power, and intensity. This is the reverence and awe of God before His holiness that He seeks (Job 28:28; Prov. 1:7; 3:5; 8:13; 9:10; 16:6; 31:30; Psalm 2:11; 34:11; 111:10; Isa. 12:6; Eccl. 12: 13; Mal. 1:14; Matt. 10: 27-33; Rom. 2:11; James 2:1). It does not mean we are afraid of Him; rather, we are fearful of His wrath and in awe of His presence (Matt. 11:28; Rom. 3).
The book of Proverbs states that the fear of God is the foundation of learning and growing, as Jesus confirmed in Matthew 10:27-33, making this precept clear. Fear helps us focus on Him, realizing His awesome holiness and our unworthiness. It enables us to grow away from our personal doubts and distractions into the embrace of His wonder. Then, we can bring Him a respectful attitude, one of wonder and admiration, and there is nothing that can hold us back from proclaiming His praise. Fear, in the context of the Matthew passage, helps us see how He loves us too. When we understand that we are precious in His sight, and that His deep love for us is true and real, we will have no need to drag along our anchors of dread and apprehension. We can let go and allow Him to reign and be Lord over us as our loving Father. We have to learn how much He indeed cares for us so we can trust Him even more to take us beyond what holds us back in life. In this way we can go deeper with Him, be able to use the gifts He brings, and take advantage of the opportunities that come. This fear of God will so infuse us with love that we will passionately desire to proclaim Him from the roof and mountaintops, as in Praise God!
Fear is how we are to come before God. Our word for "respect" is a frail comparison to its Hebrew and Greek equivalent. Thus, "fear" is used instead of "respect" or "reverence" in most English translations. In Proverbs and other Jewish wisdom literature, the fear of God is a foundational theme that we in the evangelical world have either forgotten or replaced with platitudes and ideas that fail in comparison. Too many of us have forsaken this necessity for true worship. However, realizing that the fear of the LORD is also the loving reverence for God that contains our love for Him may help us understand. This helps us embrace our submission to His Lordship of our lives, and causes us to keep His precepts and Word (Eccl. 12: 13).
Fear also means that God is God. He is our King (Mal. 1:14); therefore, we can and should see Him also as our friend (John 14). We should see Who He is in total character, not only as a friend, but also His position and power in the universe so we will stand in awe of Him and worship Him (Psalm 2:11; Isa. 12:6). Fearing God will also cause us to be fulfilled and content by being in Him (Job 28:28)!
What happens when we do not have a fear of God? It means we do not respect Him and continue to place ourselves first. Proverbs tells us that this is the attitude of a fool! These are also the reprobates in Romans, chapter one, who trust in themselves and not God, who hate knowledge and correction. They seek distortion and destruction of themselves and others. They stir others to strife and contention, totally opposite of what we are to do on this earth (Prov. 1:22; 1:31-23; 5:12; 12:1; 14:1; 11; 20:3; 28:26; 29:11)!
This fear and reverence we must have for our Lord Jesus Christ must emerge in the workings of our life and in the uttering that we proclaim in lifestyles, convictions, and proclamations. We are to learn, grow, and pass on to others what we have learned. Whether we are a pastor or a pew-sitter, we all have the responsibility to proclaim Christ by whatever means, opportunities, or manner in which we have been called and gifted. We are to add to God's holiness, and point to His dignity as we proclaim His glory.
The goal of the Christian life is our wondrous fear/friendship with Christ and our worship of Him! We start with Him, and we end well with Him. We are to know and pursue Him and receive His election. He is the One we are to follow and praise, not the world and its ways that lead to distraction and destruction. This is the wonder of simplicity that is to fulfill and sustain us. Our value and worth are real and depend on who we are in Christ. We are wonderfully made, and made to proclaim Him. We are to embrace His love and let it flow to others from our "rooftop." This is whom we are, our identity that will keep us firm in Him and will fuel our passion and distinction. God will not be merely for our convenience; rather He will be our Lord. (He already is; it is our view of Him that changes.) That, in turn, changes our lives for the better. We can truly walk with Him faithfully and not be pretenders who only flatter Christ with their lips on Sundays and walk with the world and the devil on Monday (Isa 29:13; Gal. 5: 16-21). Passion that is grown from our faith and Fruit will encourage our devotion that will feed our walk in Him.
Worship is to be Real
Real, sincere, God-exalting adoration must be the focus of worship in our daily walk with Him. It is also an imperative and covenantal call to have genuine, heartfelt, God-exalting reverence in the worship service. It must never lift up the leaders or be a performance to entertain either Christians or the public. The point I am seeking to make for you is that it is God who is the audience, and we are the people who are to praise and glorify Him!
Worship is real when we fully realize that it has only one true agenda, and that is…you should get this now…God! As He is our reason and purpose for life and all that we do, so our worship, as Scripture proclaims, must be also. It is not to be how we benefit from it, but how we promote God and His Kingdom. It is our response to His Word that affects our character, maturity, and growth in Him. We need to know Him before we can truly honor Him more deeply. As we get to know His holiness, character, and percepts, we seek to know, learn, and apply them to our life. This encourages and promotes our ability, and supports our drive to worship. In a church, the essence of the service must propagate to the attendees to worship, as in the reading of the Word, the preaching of the Word, the liturgies, confessions, music, and so forth. All of these instruct us about His nature so we can know and worship Him more. God speaks to us, and then we speak back in our adorations, and in our behaviors toward one another (Psalm 105:3; 1 Cor. 6:20).
We are still to make our services friendly and innovative; there is nothing wrong with plays and contemporary themes as long as the service glorifies Christ and does not become merely a medium to entertain the people. God really does not care what instruments we use or how we structure the service as long as it is biblical, relevant to Him, and glorifying to Him. He seeks our heart, not our talents and abilities; our heart yearning after Him is the praise He seeks! Remember, the congregation is the performer; the worship team is the leader; and God is the audience! Don't mix these up! Seek to be your best and also bring your best. This is where all of the church growth and spiritual growth principles we do at Into Thy Word come to their focal point-the reason for our discipleship and maturity. All that we do in the church-from faith, fellowship, and outreach to the physical place where we meet-comes to this point and reason: TO WORSHIP CHRIST! (Psalm 138:1-4)!
We need to be aware that it is human nature to listen to our desires rather than to God. We live in a culture that tells us to be "me-centered," yet God wants us to draw close to Him. Therefore, we have to get ourselves lined up with His Way and not ours. It is about our yielding to Him, not seeking to turn our church into a club; if we do this, we end up "lording it" over Him with our trends and faulty ideas! We are to worship in the way God has revealed to us; what He commands, not the way we prefer to see it. Worship is not about popularity, what a survey has revealed, or the latest inclinations, but it is our adoration and gratitude to Christ¾and to Him alone! Worship is about aligning ourselves to Christ according to His precepts, not our preferences. If we do not, we are drawing near to idols and self-expressions, sweeping ourselves into idolatry. This is what the second commandment is all about (Ex. 20:4-6; 1 John 5:20-21).
Why is focusing on people's desires and needs for worship idolatry? Because, they become the centrality of the worship rather than God. Idolatry is wrong, because it is substituting the One True God for what is feeble¾what we want! In the book of Exodus, right after God and Moses gave them this commandment, the Israelites blasphemed God and immediately broke the first two commandments by worshiping God as they saw fit, forgetting how God wanted them to do it. We have to see the sober nature of how we are called to come before Him. Again, the bottom line is that we are to be focused on God. As leaders in worship, we are not to be centered on or even concerned with the worshiper. (Ex. 20:18; 32:15; John 4:23-24)!
Worship is to Praise God
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15-16)
Our offerings today are not about dragging our livestock or pets to be sacrificed. Jesus was our sacrifice. So then, what do we bring? We bring ourselves! We bring a heart that desires Him, a will that is surrendered to Him, and a life that is dedicated to Him. Our sacrifice today is what flows from our heart, our love and adoration of our Lord. We are to be so full of love for our Lord that it flows to those around us. Our praise, as drawn from this text, is a peace offering of thanksgiving. This means our Lord wants us to be devoted to Him with our whole being, all the time and in all that we do.
There should be no circumstance we could ever face where praise does not flow from our lips. Our praise is to acknowledge Christ alone, by faith alone, and by His grace alone. There should be nothing from us but that faith. What we have to sacrifice is our person, ability, and availability to His purpose. When we first give ourselves, everything else will be easy because pride and hoarding will be eliminated as well as materialism. We can sacrifice our wallets and purses to His service. Time, talents, and treasures should flow willingly from us to Him in service with joy and gladness. This involves our intellect in knowing Him as well as our emotions in praising Him.
The biggest praise is what flows from our lips. The thanksgiving for His saving grace should flow with passion and conviction. The primary testimony that we are effectively praising God is the result our praise has on our friends, family, and neighbors. When we are in a healthy relationship of praise, the church reaps benefits of health and vitality. This beckons to the world who our Lord is and what He does. This is the sacrifice of praise because it distracts from our ego and self and points toward His presence. True praise places our focus on our Lord and helps remove us from our sin and selfish nature.
What Worship is Not
What worship is not is just a routine or rhetoric we do to fill air time on Sundays between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., or something we do by compulsion or by habit. Worship is not about the set up, the instruments, or the traditions. It is not liturgies or confessions, although these are means to worship Him. Worship is not to be mundane or ordinary, although we can worship Him in the mundane and ordinary aspects of life. Our God is not ordinary or mundane; He is Magnificent and Omnipresent. Thus, we need to make sure our worship does not become monotonous or it will become meaningless. We must see ourselves in His presence whether we are in a splendid cathedral, on a beach, or in a basement, hiding from those who would persecute us.
Worship is not for unbelievers, although they are, of course, welcomed. Worship is not evangelism nor is it to be a platform from which to invite people to know Him. Worship is primarily for Believers who have been paid for by Christ, to come together to express praise for Him. It is about Christians proclaiming Christ as Lord. Thus, is must be taken seriously and passionately and never compromised or watered down. We must realize that the gospel and our Lord offend, and people who are not in Him will not understand it (John 6:61-67). That does not mean we patronize to their ways and do silly things like remove our cross or neuter our message or take the essence away, afraid we will hurt somebody's feelings. Yes, we will offend! Praise God in that! We are to evangelize with our attitudes and activities, but never water down or subjugate our worship of Him to please those who do not know or understand Him. When we do this, we miss the point and do our church a disservice, our community a disservice (because they are not getting an accurate picture of worship; they need to see sincerity, not pretentiousness) and most of all, we are not glorifying our Lord (Lev. 10:1-7; 1 Sam. 15:22; Psalm 1; 131; 2:11; Matt. 15:8-9)!
We tend to think that when we come to church, we should feel emotionally moved or be seeking what we can get out of it. Worship does not depend upon where we are or if we are pleased or moved. Yes, worship should be pleasing and we should be moved, but not in the way a lot of us Christians today think. We tend to think we are the ones to be pleased and moved, but this is the opposite of true worship. He is to be pleased and we should be moved when we are pleasing Him. It is not about feeling good or being caught up in the experience or being affirmed or feeling good about self. It is purely giving Christ the glory. It is about bringing self into His presence with awe and reverence, joy and exuberance! Do you see the difference? The exuberance, energy, and excitement we are to feel is not what we receive, it is what we give…what we give to Him…and then we should feel good about that too (Psalm 111:1; Isaiah 29:13; Matt. 15:6; 1 Cor. 11:20; Col. 2:23).
How do we get our worship right? Basically, we need to understand what worship is, and then we can go before our Lord in prayer, repent of our misguided ways of doing worship, and seek His ways. Then, we can start to do worship with sincerity, joy, and eagerness. Worship involves our whole being. We must engage our intellect so we can know Him and His precepts, then we are to "feel" Him and partake in His presence. These are exercises that we do not just get up and do; we slowly learn over the entirety of our earthy lives. We partake, and in the struggle and practice, we get to know Him and experience Him more. He will transform us; we have to receive His transforming power and grow it as we do with Faith and Fruit. As this takes place, we become more of His and less in us. We become mature in the Spirit and in the Truth, and our lives will touch others more profoundly and deeper. This also takes a commitment to continually practice walking in His presence. You can do it; the only one stopping you is you. Take the step and walk in His ways. Be a Christian who really and truly has a will that has been transferred to Him and a mind that is renewed in Him, and then tell Him so with gladness and joy. This is a process that will last a lifetime, so be in prayer and seek Christ, for He first sought you!
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Founder and Director of Into Thy Word Ministries, a missions and discipling ministry. He is also a theologian in residence at the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development. He is the author of several books including, Into Thy Word, A Field Guide to Healthy Relationships and Net-Work. He is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California (M.Div.) and holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Practical Theology from London (Ph.D). He has garnered over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a Church Growth Consultant.