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?


Andrea said...

Enjoying each piece of the puzzle...becoming more and more the person GOD created me to be...it is a freeing experience and helps me greatly to celebrate and praise GOD in all situations.

Crown of Beauty said...

First of all, being an aspiring photographer, I really love the pictures you posted of Cannon Beach. After "googling" it, I found out that it is located in Oregon... which convinces me even more that your state has got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Waterfalls, lush greenery, and now lovely beaches as well.

And what better pictures to post than these to speak of the act of worship?

THe past days I have been contemplating on the story of Cain and Abel... and last week, for Valentine's Day, I almost did a post on what true worship means. I ended up doing one on LOVE... but anyway, the two are still connected and have the same motivation. Worship is love, and love is worship, come to think of it.

Have you ever heard Steve Fry's wonderful song, We Are Called? I heard it fifteen to twenty years ago, and it still remains the best exhortation to worship that I have ever heard.

You can listen to it at this YouTube link:


From beginning to end of your post, I was humming the melody of this song.

"Our worship is responding to the revelations of His name,
Bringing pleasure unto Him
Whose heart is broken over sin" is one of the lines of that great song.

"Worship Him the way He wants to hear it" is another...

Sometimes I feel like my worship of God is similar to that of Cain's... I worship Him the way I want to. And it has been my prayer, just like yours, that God will help me offer Him worship that is genuine, that will give Him pleasure, even in the routine of my daily life.

I really loved this post. Again, it amazes me that we think along similar lines... but then it doesn't surprise me anymore. We have One God and One Father over us all.

Blessings on your week!


Matt Guerino said...


I am becoming less surprised at the confluence of our thinking too. Write that post! Your thoughts are excellent, and I hadn't quite connected the idea of Cain's sin being to worship "his way." There's a lot there to go into. Sort of like "offering strange fire" before the Lord, which didn't work out too well for a couple young hot-shots as I recall. :)

I had not heard Steve Fry's song, but I look forward to listening to it.

Some of the tropical pictures you have posted on your blog from retreats etc. in the Philippines are incredible. But yes, Oregon has almost everything BUT the tropics. Cannon Beach has been an annual family getaway for several years, and it's only about 1.5 hours from our house. We are profoundly grateful that God allowed me to serve in ministry here, because there is nowhere else in the entire USA we'd rather live.

Thanks as always for gracing my blog with your thoughtful comments! I look forward to your post on real worship and Cain. :)

Crown of Beauty said...

I just finished writing a brief inspirational post on Worship...it is not what I originally planned on writing, but somehow this is how it turned out. I have dedicated this post to you and Amy.


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