What is worship? This question evades even the most devoted of followers. For some, the word worship immediately produces mental images of music, singing, and the corporate gathering of believers on a Sunday morning. For others, worship functions as a mystical, elusive world in which only the really spiritual people can hope to enter.
As we seek to navigate this tricky world of worship, we must always come back to the Scriptures. Our opinions and preferences matter little in this debate. The Bible must form our thinking and understanding of worship as it does every area of life.
A few years ago, Pastor Jimmy preached a 4-week series on worship that helped to solidify and clarify what we believe Scripture teaches about worship. I will attempt to summarize these four messages as succinctly as possible, but I would also encourage you to listen to the podcasts of these messages on the Journey website. The series was titled My Response (April 2012).
1. True worship occupies the heart and mind with God.
From the dings of push notifications and Facebook likes, to the alerts of scheduled reminders and texts messages, the digital age in which we live contains no shortage of interruptions. Our lives are absolutely flooded with distractions that seek to occupy a small slice of our attention. Our minds are bombarded constantly with focus-stealers that temporarily usurp our thoughts and become the object of our meditation. As sobering as it seems, I have just described worship. We worship that which occupies our minds and hearts.
In Isaiah chapter six, we catch a glimpse of a very unique God-encounter. Isaiah, a man completely occupied with a grand vision of God, fell on his face in worship as he became absolutely swept up in the glory and grandeur of God. When God revealed Himself, Isaiah responded in worship. His response illustrates what it looks like when God becomes the sole focus of our attention and affection.
When God occupies our minds, He then overwhelms our hearts. When He overwhelms our hearts, we live a life of overflow that pours out in praise, gratitude, adoration, thanksgiving, wonder, awe, excitement, and passion.
Overflow is synonymous with proper response, and God’s revelation dictates that response. Matt Boswell, Worship Pastor at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas wrote, “The rhythm of worship is revelation and response: our beliefs about God’s revelation dictate our response” (Matt Boswell, Doxology and Theology, p. 18). Simply stated, worship is my response to His revelation.
This may be a good time to ask yourself, what most often occupies my mind and heart? When I am commuting to work, where are my thoughts focused? When I am washing dishes, what is my mind dwelling on? Through the normal rhythms of life, do thoughts of God occupy my mind and heart?
2. Worship happens in every sphere of life.
North American Christianity often has an obsession with separating the spiritual world from the physical world. We see the evidence of this false dichotomy when people refer to church buildings as “places of worship,” or when we hear statements like, “I worship better to Hillsong.” On some level we understand what people are saying, but statements like these compartmentalize our lives to the extent that we lose the true meaning and heart of worship.
A. W. Tozer said, “There is no such thing known in heaven as Sunday worship unless it is accompanied by Monday worship and Tuesday worship and so on” (A. W. Tozer, Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, p. 9). In other words, authentic worship happens in the daily grind of everyday life. We must not make the mistake, as people have done throughout the history of the Church, of creating false distinctions between the sacred and the secular. The Bible does not make this distinction. Instead, it views all of life as sacred.
The apostle Paul explained in Colossians chapter three that our work can and should be done for the glory of God—as worship. He said, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:17, 23-24, NIV).
God genetically encoded into us certain talents, gifts, and interests that He wants us to use for His glory. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The word workmanship originates from the Greek word poema, from which we get the word poem.
Do not miss the application. You are God’s poem. You are God’s work of art, and He made you to express certain gifts, talents, abilities and interests. This creative God desires that you produce meaningful and useful work, which then becomes an outpouring of worship. When this happens, the secular becomes the spiritual because it’s done for the eternal.