This is the third post in the series entitled, “worship is…”. In the first post in the series, we talked about the fact that everyone is worshiping some way, some thing, or some One. Then, Pastor Mark admonished us to remember that worship is not about agendas, but relationship in his post: “Worship is….wasting time with God.” In this post, I want to remind us of a most basic understanding of biblical worship.
When you take away names like “contemporary” or “traditional”, when we look beneath the surface of style, preference, tradition, and innovation, what is left to define and guide our worship? If we were to remove all of the cultural and geographical structures behind how we experience and understand worship today, how would we define true worship?
When I look throughout God’s Word, I see one unifying characteristic of biblical, acceptable worship: True, biblical worship is a right, authentic response to God revealing Himself.
So many times in church today, we like to define worship by terms that more accurately describe the surface of things rather than the substance.
Many of us would agree that there is something in us that intrinsically knows that God is not looking for mere outward expression that does not reflect what is authentically happening inwardly. This hunch is confirmed in Scripture by passages like:
“The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. (Isaiah 29:13) and
“Woman,”Jesus replied,“believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit,and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24)
So, what does all this mean? If worship is not about (in particular) the songs we sing, the way we sing them, the “mountain” on which we worship, or lip service that is based on human rules, what is it?
I believe true, God-honoring worship starts with…God Himself. Because God is the First, the Last, the Author and Finisher, it makes sense that worship, too, begins (and ends) with Him. Once again, it’s all about Him.
I remember when I first became a Christian, at the age of 17, and began reading the Bible for the first time. I was absolutely blown away by what I was reading. I could not believe that this Story had been around so long, and told things exactly as they were, and I had never read it. I was in complete awe at the holiness, righteousness, and utter perfection being revealed in the One Whose words began to satiate my emaciated soul. I was getting my first revelations,( the making known of something that was previously secret or unknown), of the God of the Universe, made flesh in Jesus Christ. One moment, I was crying over the devastation of my sin, the way it hurt others, myself, and darkened my eyes to the glory of God, separating me from Him. The next moment, I was jumping and rejoicing in elation as I dared to believe and receive those first words of grace, healing, and freedom: that Christ truly became the Sacrificial Lamb by which our relationships with a holy God could be restored.
Life is a journey of worship. Through the ups and downs of life, continuous transition, learning and growing in the grace and love of Christ, there’s only been One Who hasn’t changed. He is the One Who teaches, inspires, and inhabits true worship. He is the One Who’s still willing to pick us up and put us on the path of Truth when we forget we haven’t arrived. He’s the Spirit with Whom we are filled, by Whom we worship. He’s the One Who will forever merit our worship.
True worship is about walking with God in every facet of our lives. It is acknowledging Him in all things. It is recognizing His holiness, justice, mercy, and goodness. It’s about seeking to know Him more everyday and in each moment, walking in His Spirit, agreeing with the Truth. It is concerning ourselves more with what He says than any other voice. It is opening our hearts and our lives completely, vulnerably, and trustfully to a God Who is bigger than the cosmos and all we can imagine, yet closer than our skin…
Worship is an authentic and right response to a true revelation of God.
“Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8
“In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:12