Summary: In the midst of the current debates about which worship style is best, we often lose sight of what is really important about worship.
Worship: Style Verses Substance
Purpose: To explain some of the main elements of biblical worship.
Aim: I want the listener to work at focusing on God more and on everything else less.
INTRODUCTION: Everybody worships. Worship is the reason we exist. Worship is a part of who we are as humans. The question is not IF you will worship, but WHAT you will worship.
Christian churches in America seem obsessed with the style of worship. There are those who will leave a church or try to split one just because they want a different style of worship. They prefer electronic keyboards to organs, individual chairs instead of pews, and they insist that they have to have music with a rock beat. All of those things may or may not be good, but they all have to do with the style, not with the substance of worship. Paul goes so far as to warn us, to avoid those who are . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form [i.e. style] of godliness, although they have denied its power . . . . (2 Timothy 3:4-5 NAU)
The Bible does not say much about the style of our worship, but it does have a lot to say about the substance of our worship. But, before we can explore what kind of worship God requires we need to understand what worship is.
I. What Is Worship?
The word most often used in the OT for worship means: 7812.שָחָה shâchâh, shaw-khaw’; a root; to depress, prostrate (in homage to royalty or God):— bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.[Strong, J. (1997, c1996). The new Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (H7812). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.]
The NT word for worship is similar it means: “to fall down and prostrate oneself, to kiss, or to reverence ”
✔ Biblical worship is an expression of intense love for God with a deep sense of reverence.
When Christ walked this earth, the Scribes said that there were 613 religious regulations. They agreed on the number of regulations, but they constantly argued about which regulation was the most important. One day they tried to draw Jesus into this debate. ☛ Mark 12:28-30 28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, [by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5] “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ (NAU)
That is worship! This is why the first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
II. How Can We Tell When Worship is Real?
A. Worship is not ritual
☛ Mark 12:32-34 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” . . . . (NAU)
Jesus did not give us a check list that must be completed before worship could happen. He made it clear that worship is adoring God with all of the heart and nothing more.
Many years earlier God told us what He loves: Hosea 6:6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, [i.e. ritual] And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (NAU)
B. Worship does not require a place
☛ John 4:19-21 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. (NAU)
Worship does not require a place that has soft organ music, pictures, statues, candles, nor does it require a place that has loud music, hand clapping, shouting, or instruments.
✔ Worship is an action of the heart, not a ceremony in a certain place.
Philippians 3:3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, (NAU)
C. Worship requires a revelation of God
☛ John 4:22-24 22 “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (NAU)