Summary: The nature of worship is from the inside out and has two equally important parts. We must worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23–24)True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle of holiness.
Worship is the oldest practice in the history of mankind. There is no culture in the history which has not practiced some form of worship. We were created to worship and the essence of worship can be found in the first of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) This actually teaches us three vital truths about worship. First we worship God because he is God. — Against atheism.
The first commandment is first because God’s revelation and man’s response are foundational to everything else. Second, God alone is worthy to receive worship — which forbids idolatry. So it requires that all services and acts of worship, which we tender unto the true God, with utmost sincerity, reverence and devotion. Third there is only one God, Maker of heaven and earth. Anything or anyone else claiming the title god is a disgrace. When we give our highest attention or allegiance to anything or anyone other than God, we are worshiping what is false. Since God is the object of our worship, He and He alone have the right to determine how we are to worship Him.
True worship is an encounter with the living God, experiencing God, Praising God, making an offering to God, expressing our love to God, reflecting our devotion to God and ascribing true worth to God. True worship, in other words, is defined by the priority we place on who God is in our lives and where God is on our list of priorities. True Worship is a response to God in which we move in God’s direction. Moreover, we turn towards him, not because we want God to give something to us, but because we want to give something to him. Thus, in addition to responding to God, worship is also making an offering to God. It is giving him something he deserves, whether praise, thanks, adoration and offering. When we worship God, we respond to him by offering what he has allowed us freely and truly to give: our love, our devotion, our praise, our submission, our commitment, our service. To be sure, our ability to make these offerings depends upon God’s initiative, not to mention the help of his Spirit. Yet when we choose to offer what God asks us to give, he is truly worshiped.
We worship God because he is God. True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle of holiness. Worship means “to give honor, homage, reverence, respect, adoration, praise, or glory to a superior being.” God demands worship because He and He alone is worthy of it. He is the only being that truly deserves worship. He requests that we acknowledge His greatness, His power and His glory. The Bible says: Rev 4:11 “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.” The meaning of the New Testament Greek word most often translated “worship” (proskuneo) is “to fall down before” or “bow down before.” A biblical account of such reference we see in Leviticus 9:24 -- Aaron celebrated his first act of worship as the anointed high priest. Meticulously, he offered the required sacrifices to the Lord. Then the glory of the Lord miraculously appeared to all the people. “Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. When the people saw this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground.” (Lev 9:24)
Here is the fundamental paradigm of biblical worship: bowing down before the Lord in response to his glorious self-revelation. It’s an act of reverence in which we lower ourselves in humility so that God might be lifted up. It’s a gesture of total submission, in which we say: “Lord, you are the King of kings, and I am your humble servant.” Far more than “ascribing worth to God,” biblical worship is a complete devotion of oneself to God. It’s offering more than my praise, however well-intended. The multifaceted nature of God necessitates diverse responses in worship. Because God is a mighty King, we worship with humble submission. Because God is holy, we worship with reverent awe. Because God has saved us, we worship with exuberant thanksgiving. Because God is forgiving, we worship by confessing our sins. Because God is our loving Father, we worship with heartfelt adoration.
Biblical worship is offering completely to God. Whether we actually bow down in worship or not, the core of our worship should be the humble submission of ourselves to God. Our hearts and bodies are connected. What we do with our bodies impacts our hearts, and vice versa. Though it’s possible to worship God fully without ever bowing down but the most important thing in worship is that you offer yourself humbly to God. The heart does indeed matter most. But, at the same time, No matter what I might think with my mind, feel in my heart, and express with my lips, when I put my whole body into communicating something, I’m engaged more completely. And you just might find that your heart follows your body, so that your gesture of worship leads you into even deeper and more heartfelt worship.