In my view there are two 500 pound gorillas in worship, one and perhaps both are mentioned on occasion but all-too-often left out of the discussion regarding true, full, vibrant and yes, even “God pleasing” worship.
First a foundation overview and then on to my two main points.
We -need- to worship God far more than He NEEDS us to worship Him.
His perfect, holy, loving nature and character won’t diminish one iota whether we do or don’t honor, bow, kiss-toward, raise hands, clap, dance, attain intimate worship with Him. Not on Sunday nor any other day of the week. Not this month, this year or this millennium. He is utterly perfect and unchanging, complete with or without us. That may be a travesty of thought for some, but I think it holds true in scripture.
At the same time, He DESIRES us to worship Him for Who He is and I dare say, for all the amazing grace He actively stirs into our lives.
Our -need- to worship Him is near limitless from my perspective.
Our need OF God, Father, Son, Spirit
Our personal relationship WITH Him
Salvation, forgiveness of sins, gifts of faith, hope and love, humility FROM Him
A deep sense of dependency UPON Him.
All are good and we are needful of these and more via engaging Him in the many facets of worship.
Worshiping Him in “spirit and in truth” (as Jesus said “the Father SEEKS people” who do so on earth) is His desire, command (“you shall worship the Lord your God”) and our privilege.
Yet I say again, it is our need while it is His desire to have a deepening intimacy with us, it is not something He will cease to be God without.
I will say bluntly, I believe we largely cease to be His people and fully human if we do not (or cease to) worship Him.
This said, point One:
WE -AND NOT GOD- DEFINE WHAT TRUE, MEANINGFUL WORSHIP IS.
Too often this seems the honest case, no? Not good. Not good at all. God first… or me first? On what, better still, “whom” is our focus?
After years of study of both Testaments including Old Testament temple worship, the Psalms, words of Jesus, Book of Acts and letters of the New Testament, etc., I find very little ABSOLUTE template for a practical form of -how- the faithful followers of Jesus Christ MUST (by His declaration) worship. If anything, what leaps from scripture is a vast array of varied physical, locational and other sorts of worship styles rather than any particular one. In fact the core issue as I understand it is literally the one I have already quoted in the two texts above.
Yet individuals, couples, families, the young, the old, this and that group of believers brings a set of practical forms, personal desires, openness or hard and closed definitions of what REAL worship “looks, sounds, feels like” and what it produces in THEM… or they just may not believe they’ve had an encounter with the Lord in a given moment of time, private or corporate.
When WE define worship (like most other matters) without a clear biblical definition… and when we have decided our own favorite cultural, comfort, whatever-you-like experience isn’t to our satisfaction we often feel like… what… leaving this congregation for another, starting a new one, blowing off meeting together because “I am not experiencing AUTHENTIC, REAL WORSHIP”.
As the old Covenanters (Ev. Cov.Church of which I am a member) asked, “Where is it written?”
Truth be told, sometimes we don’t really care.
We define what we need and not getting it, do whatever (or not) to “get” it. Funny how worship of God turns into a personal fulfillment quest… which is self-focus, not God-focus. Myopic. ME. Ahhh… not so good methinks.
HEART, SOUL, MIND, STRENGTH… AND YOUR NEIGHBOR?
We often must repent of showing up to get the good stuff of fellowship with God and His people, food, fun, blessings (all GOOD STUFF, I love it too!!!) while not engaging with our hearts. “They worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from me” as Jesus quotes from the Old Book.
How can you or I rightly judge our neighbor (or a non-Christian neighbor or other believers or another congregation for that matter) about their worship when we often fully know we show up on Sunday morning and ignore the needs of those in our church, block, co-workers at our day job, are ourselves only prepared to “get the good stuff” and rarely if ever lift a finger to help “the least of these” all around us when we walk out of the meeting?
What? “The PROfessionals get paid to do this! The government will deal with them. This is why we pay taxes!! It’s not MY calling, not MY job, hey, that’s why we have a staff in our local church [or denomination]!”
When we divorce focused worship of our God from loving our neighbor among whom God has placed us we’re right back to the Book of Amos where He blasts Israel for the “noise of your songs” for lack of “justice and righteousness” specifically with regard to widows, orphans, foreigners and the poor overall. Look it up. I DARE you to look up in the very Word of God the issues I raise here.
I repent regularly for my own selfishness. Without the mercy of Jesus and kindness of the Father I have no eternity but hell as I’ve never earned any other nor can I.
It is GRACE by which we are able to ever worship in spirit and truth- and do not think that it’s a great idea to experience deep, hot (or however you wish to label it) worship of God while essentially living self-centered lives when it comes to those in need around you.
It’s a both/and sort of thing.
True worship comforts and also convicts us to love God and our neighbor more, yes, even sacrificialy.
I fail regularly at both, but I cannot claim ignorance nor any sort of practical holiness
when I don’t engage from deep in my heart with Him REGARDLESS OF THE ELEMENTS OF WORSHIP as well as loving my neighbor REGARDLESS OF MY LAME EXCUSES FOR DISENGAGING.
“These people worship me with their lips but they worship in vain for their hearts are far from me” comes to mind. Pair that with “As you’ve done it to the least of these my brethren you’ve done it to me”. Ouch.
Finally, I’m well aware God has not called everyone to do everything for every needful person they ever lay eyes upon, read or hear about! I get that, it’s quite obvious we all have limits. The problem is so few care and actively share the love of Jesus beyond their own personal life, family or immediate small group of friends.
True worship moves us beyond ourselves.
We move closer to the true God as well as our neighbor due to His love and His call.
May we experience a genuine worship revival. New songs or experiences are great… but they are not near enough.
Things to consider.
Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn