Summary: What is worship?

Wednesday Night: Special Worship Service

Summer 2008

The Meaning of Worship

A reverent devotion or allegiance to God, a person, or any object regarded as holy. This is worship. Worship is not a song or poem or something played with instruments. Worship is more than something you sing it is something you experience, something you do. While not all of you shared a way in which you have experienced worship in your life I am sure you have all had those experiences. Sometimes it is a truly amazing thing to encounter. When I was in High School I was at a particularly low point in my life. I had been depressed for years and didn’t want to keep on going. My family had gotten involved with this new church and things were getting better. The problem is once you have gone through depression you carry the baggage for many years even after it is done. That’s where I was. I had a lot of baggage. Anything that happened that I didn’t like or was disappointed in would bring all these painful feelings that were too much to take. I was at this weekend get-away with the youth group and I was at a particular low. Disappointment hit me really hard that weekend and all my feelings and all the pain of my depression came over me. I was a mess. We had gone in a bit early before the session started and I was doing everything I could to put on a brave face. As the service started I was sitting there totally down and wishing I was alone so I could break down. I sat and I listened. I still remember the band starting the song God of Wonders. As I sat there and listened to the words: “God of wonders beyond our galaxy, you are holy. Precious Lord reveal your love to me…Father Holy.” As I sat there and listened to these words something in me changed. The pain the heartache that I had felt for so long was gone. There was just something about worshipping the Almighty God that overwhelmed the troubles of my life. I imagine we all have stories like that. We all have experiences with worship that have changed us.

So what I want to do tonight is just focus our hearts on worship. We are going to have a longer time of worship this evening where we just offer praises to God. Before we get to that however I want to show you the meaning of worship. So that we can worship God in Spirit and in truth.

Our word worship comes from the old English word worthship. Worthship denotes the worthiness of the one receiving the special honor. Our worship is a praise to God because He is worthy of it. What we do here in our services together is merely a recognition of the worthiness of God to be praised. This worship does not require a special priesthood or ritual. It is not based around a certain location or place. It is based on the one who receives the praise. If you look back at the history of worship you will find that when God set His people apart they had some specific requirements for their worship. They met at the temple for that was where the presence of the Lord dwelt. So it was at the temple that people would gather to worship their God. Later during the time of Herod and the reign of the Romans the Jewish people were scattered. They could not all make it to the temple to worship and so the instituted local worship in synagogues. Worship however was still done at a place. Then in 33 A.D there was a subtle shift. A time had come where worship was no longer truly practiced on a certain mountain or in a certain building but within the hearts of those who accepted Jesus as Lord. Worship was no longer something that happened at a place but something that happened in the hearts of all believers. The cross and the resurrection changed the nature and practice of worship.

True worship is in the shadow of the cross. So what is worship? In the New Testament worship is characterized by a joy and thankfulness for what Christ has done for us. It is a realization of the atonement and mercy that He gave His life so that life to the full. Not only is that a part of worship but true worship is focused on God’s saving work through the resurrection. Yet even today with thousands of years to learn worship is still bigger than we think it is. In the early church worship consisted of a number of different things. A major part of it was prayer. Services began and focused around times of prayer. The prayers that we offer and the relationship we work to build with God is a primary form of Biblical worship. But it is bigger than that. Early worship services often consisted of a reciting of the Psalms or the prophets putting a focus not just on our communication to God but on God’s word that He has given to us. It is bigger still. Teachings and lessons were considered a part of worship. Not just songs but everything that was done when God’s people got together was a form of worship.

If worship is a recognition of how great God is then it cannot be done without praise and admiration. True worship is accompanied by praise. In fact one of the words used in Scripture for worship means ‘fear’ ‘awe’ ‘reverence’ indicating that a part of worship is a fear or awe of the awesome power that God has. Here is the cool part: in the Old Testament one of the words used to describe worship literally means to bow down. It is a word used for submission. Do you know what this tells us? This shows us that our obedience to God our submission to His will and His plan for our life is in and of itself an act of Biblical worship. How cool is that? We see passages like Psalm 95 which says:

Ps 95:6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; Ps 95:7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

Let us bow down in worship before our God and king. Let our focus be on Him for true worship is always based on the Lord we praise and never on the one leading worship, never on the person doing the worshiping. The praise we offer God true worship is not about you. Worship is not about a song that you like or a feeling that you have. Worship is about the God of the universe who is worthy of our praise.

Looking at the words used for worship we learn something else very important. In the Old Testament and New Testament alike there is a word of worship that means service. Service is a major form of worship. Due to this fact there is a connection between what you serve being what you worship. Which makes me think of how I live. How much to do I serve that desire for money? How much service do I put into a job or a person or an object of my desire? If our service is a form of worship do you ever wonder about the implications of that are? Do you ever think that you might be worshiping your job, your family, your money, your possessions, or yourself? Letting yourself serve your own needs and the things of this world is not just idolatry it is polytheism. To some degree you might be worshiping another God by serving something other than one true God. Sometimes we put things in the place of God that do not belong there and that is not always a decision of the mind but merely a habit that is developed.

You see true worship does not come from meeting together on Sunday morning or Wednesday night and singing songs. True worship comes from the heart. It comes from your attitude. Remember what Jesus says to the Samaritan woman in John 4? “Yet a time is coming when the true worshipers will worship in Spirit and in truth.” That is the nature of worship and its true meaning. True worship comes for your heart from your recognition and desire to praise God for His worthiness. Worship is a simple and as complicated as letting come from your heart. But the great news is that worship is not hard. The God we serve is so great, so amazing, so wonderful, awesome, mighty, and worthy of praise that worshipping Him only requires seeing Him. For once you see Him. Once you experience His majesty. After you encounter Him there is nothing left to do but praise Him with every part of your life. Your prayer, your reading of His word, your obedience, your submission, your service, all of this is a part of your worship. Your life is your worship to God, so may it shine for Him. May your treatment of others and your attitude in life may everything that you do and every step that you take be an act of worship to God. And right now let’s us offer Him the praise that He so rightly deserves, let us do what Psalms 92 describes:

Ps 92:1 It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, Ps 92:2 to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night,

Let us praise God together as His children recognizing His worthship as we worship together.