Summary: Worship is--adoration, celebration, spiritual, proclamation, offering, togetherness, transformation, and involves preparation.
Today is Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church. It’s an appropriate time to talk about worship. This is something that is in flux among Protestants. There are fewer and fewer traditional services as many churches are moving to contemporary worship. The structure is simple; there are basically two elements: singing and sermon. A praise band has replaced the organ and there’s no liturgy. I find this regrettable. I think this contemporary format works fine for conferences, retreats, and seminars, but not on Sunday. We have liturgy because we want worship to be structured, substantive, spiritual, and centered on honoring God.
I remember a church I used to attend where they called the Sunday worship a “preaching service.” The pastor was eager to get the “non-essential preliminaries” over with so he could get to the important part--the sermon. Yet all elements of worship are equally important. Together--each thing we do in worship--forms a unified act of praise to our God.
So what is worship? I’d like to define worship, because it is so important, and not just for this life. We’re going to be spending eternity worshiping God.
1. Worship is adoration. The word “worship” means to bow down before God. It comes from the Old English word “worthship.” This word brings to mind the proclamation of Revelation 5:12: “Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor and glory and blessing.” When we begin to glimpse the reality of God, the natural reaction is to worship Him. In our worship…
We are declaring God’s worth.
We are paying reverent homage and respect.
We are offering praise.
We are responding to God’s greatness.
Worship is the highest form of love. Worship is our reply to what God has done. It is a “thank You” that refuses to be silenced. We’re taking God seriously. God is enthroned through the worship of His people. “O Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”
2. Worship is celebration. In Luke 14, Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a party! God is the Host, and we’re invited. We do so with joy and enthusiasm. God is alive, and He’s caused us to come alive in the new birth. Worship is not the funeral of a dead deity; it is a celebration of the exciting, exhilarating presence of a living Lord who makes possible our hope and joy. Worship celebrates what God has done in Christ, and what He is now doing in the world. Because we take God seriously, we approach Him in worship with expressions of joy!
3. Worship is spiritual. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth,” Luke 4:24. Worship is a sacred time, set-apart…
Reminding us that there are matters of eternal significance;
Reminding us that we answer to God;
Reminding us that we need Him every hour.
Worship involves both faith and feeling. It is both spiritual and spirited. Professor Jack Davis of Gordon-Conwell Seminary writes: “American evangelical churches need to recover a sense of the holiness and majesty of God, and of the real, personal presence of the risen Christ in the midst of His people in the power of the Spirit as the central realities of biblical worship.” Warren Wiersbe writes, “We’re not worshiping God because of what He will do for us, but because of what He is to us.”
4. Worship is proclamation. All the world reveals God’s glory--our worship proclaims it! We are declaring the majesty of God. Our worship is directed both upward and outward, to God and to all people. It is our means of expressing our commitment to God and our dependence on Him. Through worship we are stating what God has done for us. When we tell people what we do on Sundays, we are admitting that we cannot effectively journey through life alone. Worship keeps us focused as we focus on God. We need to worship, to gain encouragement to face the world. Our broken world needs to know that we have resources they desperately need. Worship is an act of resistance against the idolatry of the age, and a proclamation of what is real and true and holy.
5. Worship is offering. We bring “a sacrifice of praise to God,” Hebrews 13:15. We bring ourselves as “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is our spiritual worship,” Romans 12:1. In worship we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves. Our singing and our prayers remind us that all we have comes from Above, not from within. We offer ourselves to God in worship. We’re saying “yes” to God and “no” to the broken promises of the world. Yet this offering is not to buy favor (we’re not getting points for coming); it is in gratitude to God giving us new life and hope for eternity. We often come to worship as needy people. Psalm 51 says, “The sacrifices given to God are a broken and contrite heart.” And so worship is an offering of our lives to God…it’s not what we get out of worship that matters, but what we give.