Nov 10, 2008

Worship of the Eternal God - Part 1 of 3

by Dan Grubbs

In this three-part series, I examine thoughts about what worship of our almighty God is. Part 1 looks at worship simply defined as “acts of reverence.” This three-word definition of the word worship is good for helping us gain some insight into the idea of worship. With a discussion of the two words, act and reverence, we can see an important part of our relationship with our God.

When we look at the short definition, we see that the word act is the verb, also known as an action word. What do you think are the actions we’re to be doing when we worship our God?

Action is in direct opposition to being passive. I think we in the Church today must guard against being sponges. By that I mean we cannot show up each Sunday and expect to just absorb what God has for us. We must not be receivers only, but we must be in active worship of God. However, do not mistake charismatism and empty emotions for worship, either.

Worship is a two-way experience

Remember our definition of worship — an act of reverence. We must be sure we are the doers and not just the receivers.

So, what are some of the actions we should be doing? Well, like always, we should find our answers in His word. Look at I Chronicles 16:23-36. There we get an excellent picture of active worship. In the passage, we are shown a list of worshipful actions. They are: sing to the Lord, proclaim good tidings, tell of His glory and deeds, praise Him greatly, fear Him, ascribe glory to Him, bring an offering, worship in holy array, say, “the Lord reigns,” give thanks, and bless the Lord.

Although not exhaustive, this short list of ways to worship is from a psalm of King David. These are examples of things that are active to do when we worship God. These should give us some idea about what the active part of worship means. We must be in active worship both as individuals and corporately as the local body.

If we want more examples of worship, don’t we have a whole book of the Bible dedicated to active worship of God? What do we find in the book of Psalms? How many verses and how many chapters are an outpouring of worship of God? This is a great example for us to follow when we worship our Lord, especially in light of the conditions and settings the psalmists found themselves in — worshipping in tribulation and in joy.

In spirit and in truth

Today, it's not normal to bring sacrifices and offerings of grain, libations or animals. Those acts were part of the old covenant way of worshipping God. But, with Christ, we have a new covenant and we are to worship in a different way. In fact, Christ Himself tells us the way we are to worship. This can be found in John 4:23-24. "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. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth."

One of the wonderful things about our relationship with God is that we can communicate with Him directly in spirit. We can talk directly to God without having a human intercessory. But, when we look at this passage from the book of John, we see that we’re also to worship in truth. I think this is a key element of our worship of God.

I believe worshipping in truth means that we’re to be honest with ourselves and honest with God. He already knows our hearts, so we cannot lie to God. Therefore, we can tell Him how we’re feeling and what’s honestly in
our hearts.

We can't fake worship

But, there is a danger in today’s Church. Often, we say and do things in worship because we’ve always done them. Individually and as a local congregation, we get into habits of worship — sometimes without knowing the meaning behind them. We perform things or say things because it’s expected of us or because we’ve always done so. But, often times these are not the true reflections of our hearts at the time. God doesn’t want empty worship. Another sad fact is that we've mistaken emotionalism and experientialism to take the place of true worship. It make look like worship on the outside — and no observer could accuse someone of false worship — but on the inside, God sees that the expression is not real.

He wants our true worship. He wants us to be honest in what we’re saying. Again, the Psalms are an excellent example of true worship. We don’t always see praises in the Psalms, do we? We see laments and we see complaints. But, we never see any of the Psalmists dishonestly praising God with empty praises. Remember … "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14.

The other important word in our definition of worship is reverence. A short definition of reverence is “a feeling of deep respect, esteem, awe and love. I don’t think there’s any born-again believer who doesn’t feel this way about God. But, let’s combine this definition of reverence with the word “act.” What does that look like? Again, let’s look in the Psalms for just one example. David writes, "I will tell of Thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise Thee. You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel." Psalm 8

In this psalm, we get a picture of how David feels about God and how he encourages all of us to worship God.

Revering God

Let’s look a little closer at the definition of revere. There are some key words that are important to study.

Respect – how do we demonstrate deep respect for God? I think the ultimate way to show this level of respect is to be completely obedient to Him. Do not disobey Him in anything, even if it is contrary to your personal desires.

Esteem – We show how much we esteem God in the way we prioritise what’s important in our lives. Where does God fit in? Truthfully, is He first or second or third? Is He in the background of our lives? Or is God the focus of what we do each day? Remember, God is a jealous god and will remove those things in our lives that push Him out of first place, be they activities, jobs, or even our family members. Do you put your children or spouse before God?

Awe – One way to show awe is to tell God who He is. Sometimes a good way to do this is to pray the Psalms. But, the important thing is to acknowledge to the best of your ability your awareness of who God is and what He’s done and what He will do.

Love – No greater love has a man than to give his life. Love Him with all your heart, mind, and soul. Submit the whole of your life to God. This means turning over control of all parts of your life to God. Don't call on God as a last resort. Ensure that you never take a step in any direction without first consulting what His will is. That's giving God your life.

For those who like acronyms, you see that the first letters of the words above spell R-E-A-L. God is real in our lives and we must worship him with real reverence.

Again, we must always remember that worship is active not passive. God blesses us as He desires. If He chooses to bless us through a sermon on Sunday, then praise Him for the blessing. In this way we are the recipients of God’s love. However, as God’s people we must be active in our worship of the Creator.

Remember our example of the sponge? A sponge absorbs water much like a believer can absorb from God, from His word and from His teachers. But a sponge doesn’t give the water back unless it’s squeezed. Our heavenly Father doesn’t want to squeeze us for us to serve and worship to Him — but He may! So, let’s be sure we revere our God actively in our own lives and when we gather together.

In part two of this series, we will continue to look at Biblical perspectives on worship. This series won’t be contiguous articles, but probably feel more like different people in a room talking about worship. There is much to discuss and many opinions on just what worship really is. Our hope is to find our answers in His word and see what He tells us about worship there.

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