Worship Is...

Our church staff recently examined what Jesus meant in John 4:24 when he told us to worship in "spirit and truth." In that passage of Scripture, worshiping "in spirit" was a direct contrast to worshiping at an external location (either the Jewish temple in Jerusalem or the Samaritan holy site on Mt.Gerizim ). Jesus is saying worship involves the soul, the inner being. Worship, we might say, comes from the heart.But he also said to worship "in truth." In context, this is a reference to himself as the Messiah, the fulfillment of God's plan as expressed in the Bible. His words, his revelation of his plan - in short, his truth - are to guide our worship.

“Worshipping God isn’t just singing, it’s much more than that.” Ever hear something like that? I have, many times. And I agree. But of course that raises the question: if that’s what worship isn’t, then what is real worship? What makes an act of genuine worship… well, genuine?

Passages like John 4:24 lead me to the definition of worship that I’ve gone back to over and over again throughout the years: genuine worship of God is the response of our hearts to seeing God clearly. This makes accurate information about God (in other words, good theology) absolutely essential to genuine worship. The mind is fully engaged in the worshipful act, guiding our hearts in response. When we see God clearly for who he is we have something to respond to. The more I know of God, the more deeply, accurately, and authentically I can worship him.

I like this definition because it encompasses the whole person; heart, as well as mind and will. I think this provides at least two important benefits. First, it helps us understand what makes an act – potentially any act – worshipful. Second, it adds depth and helps us avoid shallowness in worship.

Any action can be an act of worship. For example, we recognize it as an act of love when I spend money on something my wife loves on her birthday. It is the same when our love for God and our appreciation for how richly he’s blessed us makes us take pleasure in giving to the church or to those in need. Our heart is responding to him, and out of gratitude and love we spend money on the things that matter to him. That makes generous and cheerful giving an act of worship.

The same idea applies to any area of life. Taking time to study my Bible, serving people or the church, obedience to God’s moral standards, etc., these can (and should!) all be responses to who God is. And when they are, that makes them a form of worship.

This also helps prevent worship from devolving into mere sentimentality. Worship isn’t so much about creating an experience or an emotional moment. It’s about helping worshipers see more and more clearly who God is and what he’s done, and then providing opportunity for people to respond to that from the heart.

So the question becomes, how can I live my ordinary life in a worshipful way? How do I do laundry, raise children, pay bills, go to work... as a response to who God is and what he's called me to do?

How easy do you find it to live all of life as an act of worship? What have you found helpful in doing so?

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