By Andy Constable
Recently, I have been doing a series in the evenings on the subject of Biblical Worship. It is an important subject to think about in a culture where worship is simply seen as what we sing on a Sunday and/or, perhaps, connected with having an emotional experience. Because of the many nuances concerning the topic, it is difficult to define the term with the precision required for universal acceptance.
The word, “worship” is an old English word that is concerned with the “worthiness” or “worship” of the person or thing that is reverenced. We worship that to which we ascribe honour, praise, love and thanks. Of course, from a Christian perspective, only God is to be treasured. He alone is worthy of our praise. Only God is to be worshipped and anything else is an idol. Exodus 34:14 reminds us:
“Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
What we ascribe worth to in the Bible is closely connected to the heart. The heart in the Bible does not mean our emotions, as in modern, soppy love songs but, rather, our whole wills! It’s about what we give our full attention to. It’s about what we hold dear. For example, Isaiah 29:13:
“The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”
In these verses God is clear that the Israelites honoured God with their outward worship, but not truly in their hearts. Their wills, their attention and their love was focused on other things. In reality, they were not worshipping God at all.
We were created to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, all our souls and all our strength. This is worship. Harold Best says,
“In the most basic terms, worship consists of someone acknowledging that someone or something else is greater – worth more – and, by consequence, to be obeyed, feared and adored.”
However, the problem is that we love things other than God. Romans 1:24:
“Therefore God gave them up to their lusts…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator…”
Instead of worshipping the creator, we worship his creation. Instead of loving God first, we love ourselves first. We replace God with idols. We love sex, family, money, comfort, security and control more than we love God. We ascribe worth to these things rather than to God.
The battle for every Christian is therefore to love God in every moment of their lives. Paul Tripp writes:
“As worshiping beings, human beings always worship someone or something. This is not a situation where some people worship and some people don’t. If God isn’t ruling my heart, someone or something else will.”
If God isn’t the centre of our lives then we are worshipping something else. This is the same on a Sunday as well as on a Monday morning. Paul writes to the Corinthians and says this: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do ALL to the glory of God.” In every activity we are called to bring glory to God.
Therefore, worship is not simply a time on a Sunday when we sing songs but a heart attitude that shows off what we ascribe worth to. Worship involves our everyday life. It involves what we do and what we think about. It involves the way we treat people and the way we do our jobs. It involves how we look after our families and how we serve our friends. It involves what we do in the morning when no-one is looking as well as when we come to gather on a Sunday morning.
It is key that worship is seen in this way. This is crucial for (1) the new converts that are coming through our doors. They are not called to come on a Sunday, look presentable, and then do whatever they want when no one is watching. We are called as Christians to be ambassadors for Christ at all times. This is also important for (2) mature believers so that their spiritual lives don’t stagnate and they constantly allow the Spirit to root out idols in order that they love the gospel more. This is key for (3) young Christians who often jump from one ‘worship’ event to another to get an emotional high. Worship happens in the everyday as we seek to bring glory to God in every moment.
Let me end with Romans 12:1:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
After spending 12 chapters describing the great doctrine of justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, Paul applies it in this verse. We are called to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Worship is more than singing songs (but definitely includes this) but all of life. The question is: are you ascribing all worth, all honour, all love to our good, perfect and holy heavenly Father?