Chapter 28 – Understanding the True Meaning of Worship

Why Should We Worship God?

Before discussing why we should worship God, it would be good to understand just what worship is. For many Christians, worship is what we do on Sunday morning. Singing a few songs, listening to a teaching, sharing communion/Eucharist, and doing whatever else is scheduled for the Sunday morning meeting time.

But worship is so much more than that. And, all too often, what we call worship is not really worship at all. What we call worship is all too often entertainment. And we evaluate the effectiveness of worship by how it makes us feel. But worship is really about what we give. Not what we receive.
Worship is bowing before our superior, in this case, God. True worship costs us something.

In Romans 12:1 that cost is described as the sacrifice of self. When we come before God in worship, we humbly give ourselves up to his Lordship, proclaiming that he is worthy and exalting him in praise.

Because He Is the Alpha and the Omega

Because He Is the Creator

In the fourth chapter of Revelation, John sees a vision of God on his throne in heaven. And surrounding the throne are four living creatures and 24 elders. They are worshiping God and saying,

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

They are proclaiming that God is worthy of our worship because he created all things. Because all things have their being in him.

Because He Is Lord

In 1 Chronicles 16:29, we are told to “ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” The Lord alone is worthy of our adoration and worship. The Psalms are filled with calls to praise the Lord including Psalm 95:6, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” And Jesus also tells us that “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

Because He Is the Redeemer

God is worthy of my worship because he is my creator and Lord. But he is much more than that. Throughout the pages of the Bible, you can find him working to call people to himself. And, more personally, he has called me to himself.

I am a sinful human. One who was separated from the love of God by my sin. But God provided a suitable sacrifice for my sin. He imputed to me the righteousness of Christ. He adopted me into his family. And he has prepared an eternal future for me with himself.

Because He Is Worthy

In the end, everyone will bow before God and worship him as Lord. When we all stand before him, his glory and majesty will overwhelm each one. We will bow then, not because we are forced to, but simply because we will acknowledge that he is worthy of our worship.

But how much better if we worship him now. He is our creator, Lord, and redeemer. Our natural response to him should be to mimic the elders and living creatures in Revelation 4:9-10 and bow before him,

Worship in Spirit and Truth

To say that we must worship God “in spirit” means, among other things, that it must originate from within, from the heart; it must be sincere, motivated by our love for God and gratitude for all he is and has done. Worship cannot be mechanical or formalistic. That does not necessarily rule out certain rituals or liturgy. But it does demand that all physical postures or symbolic actions must be infused with heartfelt commitment and faith and love and zeal.

But the word “spirit” here may also be a reference to the Holy Spirit—there’s disagreement among good Bible scholars. The apostle Paul said that Christians “worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).

It’s the Holy Spirit who awakens in us an understanding of God’s beauty and splendor and power. It’s the Holy Spirit who stirs us to celebrate and rejoice and give thanks. It’s the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to see and savor all that God is for us in Jesus. It’s the Holy Spirit who, I hope and pray, orchestrates our services and leads us in corporate praise of God.

This worship, however, must also be “in truth.” This is easier for us to understand, for it obviously means that our worship must conform to the revelation of God in Scripture. It must be informed by who God is and what he is like.

Our worship must be rooted in and tethered to the realities of biblical revelation. God forbid that we should ever sing heresy. Worship is not meant to be formed by what feels good, but by the light of what’s true.

Genuine, Christ-exalting worship must never be mindless or based in ignorance. It must be doctrinally grounded and focused on the truth of all we know of our great Triune God. To worship inconsistently with what is revealed to us in Scripture ultimately degenerates into idolatry.

True Worship

Let’s start with the inner essence of worship and then work out to the more public expressions of worship services or daily acts of love, which Paul calls our “spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

The reason I make the distinction between the inner essence of worship and the external expression of it is because I think Jesus did in Matthew 15:8–9: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me.”

For Jesus, this worship amounts to zero. That is what “vain” means. “In vain do they worship me.” Zero. It is not worship. This is a zero worship. It is zero if there is no heart dimension to it. So, you can do as many deeds as you want and go to as many church services as you want and never be worshiping if it is all external and nothing is happening in your heart toward God. All true worship is in essence a matter of the heart. It is more, but it is not less.

Then the question becomes: What is this inner, authentic, Godward experience of the heart that we call the essence of worship? Jesus pointed us toward an answer in John 4:23–24 when he said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Notice that worshiping in spirit is not contrasted with worshiping in the body or with the body. Instead, it is put alongside worshiping in truth.

Secondly, worship depends on a right spiritual or emotional or affectional heart-grasp of God’s supreme value. So true worship is based on a right understanding of God’s nature, and it is a right valuing of God’s worth.

So, here is my summary: The inner essence of worship is to know God truly and then respond from the heart to that knowledge by valuing God, treasuring God, prizing God, enjoying God, being satisfied with God above all earthly things. And then that deep, restful, joyful satisfaction in God overflows in demonstrable acts of praise from the lips and demonstrable acts of love in serving others for the sake of Christ.

Essence of Worship

Now I take it as a given that worship, whether an inner act of the heart, or an outward act of the body, or of the congregation collectively, is a magnifying of God. That is, it is an act that shows how magnificent God is. It is an act that reveals or expresses how great and glorious he is. Worship is all about reflecting the worth or value of God.
What inner experience of the heart does that? If the essence of worship is not mere outward form, but inner, Godward experience, what experience reveals and expresses how great and glorious God is? To answer that question we go to Philippians 1:20–21.

Notice from verse 20 what Paul’s mission in life is. He says it is “my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted [the key word, “magnified” — shown to be great and glorious] in my body, whether by life or by death.” So what Paul is saying is that his earnest hope and passion is that what he does with his body, whether in life or death, will always be worship. In life and death, his mission is to magnify Christ — to show that Christ is magnificent, to exalt Christ, and demonstrate that he is great. That’s plain from verse 20: “that Christ shall be exalted in my body, whether by life or death.”
This means that we can now say that the inner essence of worship is cherishing Christ as gain — indeed as more gain than all that life can offer — family, career, retirement, fame, food, friends. The essence of worship is experiencing Christ as gain. Or to use words that we love to use around here: it is savoring Christ, treasuring Christ, being satisfied with Christ. This is the inner essence of worship. Because, Paul says, experiencing Christ as gain in death is the way he is exalted in death.

Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard a thing of blessing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the mama did when it was hoarded [Exodus 16]. God will never let you hold a spiritual thing for yourself, it has to be given back to Him that He may make it a blessing to others.” – Oswald Chambers

The best preparation for worship is not a rehearsal but surrender “ – A.W. Tozer

Chapter 28 Questions

  1. Look up these verses , and share how they make you feel / think about God
    • Psalm 96:4-9
    • Psalm 29:1-2
    • 1 Chronicles 16:25-29
    • Psalm 86:12
  2. Pg 217: Fill in the blanks ! “ Worship is the _________ of all our nature to God . It is the __________ of _________ by His holiness ; the ___________ of mind with His truth ; the __________ of the imagination by His beauty; the ________ of the ___________ to His love ; the _________ of _________ to His purpose.
  3. Discuss William Temple’s definition of worship (above)
  4. Pg 217-218: “The heart is the control center of our inner person“ ( Thrasher ) How do we give our mind , emotion and will when we worship?
  5. Pg 219- 220: Discuss what unacceptable worship looks like .
  6. Share thoughts , insights from the book or the notes.

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