How Do I Worship God?
True Worship is Expressed in Action
Let's face it. The first thing that comes to the average Christian's mind when they think about worship is the Sunday morning service. We think about sermons and Sunday School lessons and an expectation of watching a few people on a stage perform for us, including singers, musicians and pastors. In many ways, our expectation of worship is like our expectation of going to a play, or a movie. We go to a church with the desire to be entertained. I often hear people say: "oh, the service really moved me" Or on the opposite side: "I just don't get much out of church." My question is: "What did you put into it?"
The truth is, the average Christian's idea of worship is all wrong. Worship is not a place you go to one day a week. It is something that is incorporated into all of life. And it isn't like going to a play, or a movie. You're not seeking to be entertained, or to "get something out of it." You are not the audience, critiquing the performers on a stage. Rather, you are the performer. And your audience is the God of the universe.
I. Defining True Worship
The interesting thing is that the English word we use isn't even adequate to describe the biblical understanding of the concept of worship We get our understanding primarily from the old English word "weordhscipe" which means worthiness or meritoriousness. Thus we think of worship as giving God the recognition that He deserves. Which isn't a bad thing. It just is inadequate to define what the Bible has in mind when speaking of true worship.
The word worship can be either a noun or a verb. When used as a noun it includes attitudes such as adoration, veneration, devotion, supplication and invocation. The actual definition of the noun is the reverence, honor or homage paid to God and the ceremonies or services expressing this reverence.
But the thing that we have to realize is that worship is not primarily a noun in Scripture. According to The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery worship is first and foremost a verb. Verbs, as we know, are action words. Worship requires action.
There are several different words in Scripture that are translated worship in our English Bibles. Two of the primary ones are the Hebrew word 'aboda and the Greek work latreia. When translated as worship in the Old Testament, they usually mean work done in service at the temple. The Greek word latreia in the New Testament, either refers back the the Old Testament and its sacrificial system, to the false notion that killing Christians would be a service to God, or to the Christian presenting his body as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).
So the main concept of worship in Scripture is not sitting in church once a week, singing the doxology and critiquing the weekly sermon. The underlying concept of worship in the Bible is service to the One revered. We not only have an attitude of deep respect, adoration, reverence and awe of God, but true worship is always accompanied by the activities or actions that express these feelings.
II. Worship is a Response to God
We see in the Old Testament that worship is primarily a reaction or response to what God had first done for the worshipper. Many of the acts of worship in the Old Testament revolved around the Tabernacle or the Temple. It included the sacrifices and various festivals. They celebrated God as Creator, Deliverer, Provider and Redeemer. Examples of God's actions which they celebrated include the Passover and the Exodus from Egypt.
As we get to the New Testament we still see worship as a response to what God has done (Romans 12:1). And the restraints of the Tabernacle and the Temple are greatly diminished. In fact, Paul indicates that our bodies are now temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19,20)
Earlier, Jesus said that there will come a day when the true worshipper won't need a specific place. But they will worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23). The word spirit here is not the Holy Spirit but the human spirit. Jesus' point is that a person who worships God must not do it with some external conformity to religious rituals and places, but inwardly with a proper heart attitude.
This is not to say that there is no longer a need for corporate worship. We still have to remember not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together as members of the Body of Christ (Hebrews 10:25). What it does mean is that it is not limited to that. Rather all that we do becomes one continuous response of worship to God.
So, whether we are in the kitchen, the ballpark, the bedroom, the boardroom, the home or the workplace, all that we do is done as an offering of worship to the One who gives us life. And everything we do is to His honor and glory (Colossians 3:17).
It is my prayer that God's people will truly worship Him. For He alone deserves our honor and praise and adoration. May we learn what it means to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. And may we never again think of worship as something we do only on Sundays. But let that Sunday service prepare our hearts and our minds to truly worship Him the rest of the week.
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