We hear the word “worship” very often don’t we? No matter the belief system, this concept of worship always comes up. The Bible is full of references to worship and acts of worship, as well as directives for who and how to worship. The dictionary tells us that to worship is to show reverence and adoration for (a deity). For those of us who are followers of Christ there is but one God, and we are to worship Him alone, and love Him with all our heart, all our mind, and all our spirit. This command to put the Lord first in our entire realm is our invitation to worship the Lord with everything we have. Moses made this clear to the people of Israel when they were in the desert, waiting to cross over into the Promised Land.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.~Deuteronomy 6:4
Although the dictionary’s definition gives us a glimpse as to what worship might mean, I hope you will agree with me that the Bible gives us a deeper understanding of what it means to worship our God. It is not merely a show or display of reverence. Worshipping God doesn’t mean we have to show everyone around us that we are pious. Just because we give offerings of money, song, or other talents to the church does not mean that we are worshipping God. Those actions can be a result or a manifestation of our worship, but true worship goes a lot deeper than that.
In the book of John, Jesus talks to us about what our Father in heaven is seeking.
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.~John 4:23-24
Notice how He makes the distinction of “true worshippers”. So it is possible to put on a show of worship without truly worshipping God. So who are these “true worshippers” that Jesus was talking about? Are they the people who give the most at church? Are they the ones who sing the best in the congregation? Is Jesus talking about the people with the least amount of sin in their lives? The people who get along with everybody? The most accomplished people, professionally? The richest? The kindest…? Of course not! A true worshipper is someone who has surrendered their whole being to the Lord. Someone who daily surrenders to the Lord, and accepts all His ways above his or her own.
What do I mean by that? Paul talks about three pillars in the book of Corinthians: faith, hope, and love, and by extension, the fruit of the spirit. He ultimately sums it up this way in Galatians:
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”~ Galatians 5:14
Once we receive God’s love into our hearts, we are born into His family, and we begin to love Him above all. The Lord expects us to allow Him to reveal to us how to spread that love the we receive from Him to those we come into contact with, as part of our worship to Him. As John wrote, you cannot say you love God and then hate your brother. We are all made in His image, aren’t we? In the same way He has chosen to love us, He expects us, His children, to choose to love our neighbors.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.~ 1 John 4:20
Since we are on that topic, it’s a good time for a reminder of what God means exactly by love… Remember God is love, and love is God. If we are going to love others, we have to understand what this love is that can change an entire generation and beyond.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.~1 Corinthians 13
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
God’s love for us is so awesome. The best part about it is that if we give Him a chance, if we put Him first, if we choose to worship Him above anyone or anything, that same love will be made manifest in our lives. That is what true worship is: living life one day at a time, surrendering to God’s love in every moment, every situation, taking every opportunity to allow His love to shine through us and reach all our neighbors.
Again, what does this mean? Does God expect us to become as perfect in love as He is as soon as we give our hearts to Him? Of course not! What He is looking for is a heart that worships Him, ready to yield to His will at all times.
This means for instance when someone offends you, no matter how great or small the infraction, you turn to God with a willing heart and ask Him to help you to forgive that person, and more importantly you allow Him to do it!
It means if you find you lose patience with people quickly, you earnestly seek God’s help every day to help you grow in love and patience.
It also means you are willing to let God teach you how to wipe EVERYBODY’s slate clean every day, so that you hold no grudges against anyone.
It means you don’t join the ranks of our accuser and don’t start to judge everyone around you, but instead you learn to pray and root for your brothers and sisters.
It means you allow God to help you overcome that anger that consumes you so easily.
It ultimately means no matter how good it feels to do things your way, you surrender your right to live your life the way YOU want, and make a daily decision to adopt all of God’s ways, in every area of your life as He reveals them to you.
Truly worshipping God leads us to a place where we understand that He loves all of us, and He does not want anyone who still has breath to perish – remember the price He paid for each and every one of us.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.~ Galatians 5 : 22-26
True worship produces wonderful fruit, and it is a lifestyle. A daily surrender to our wonderful Lord. True Worship puts God first in all things, at all times, and allows His powerful, transforming love to do its perfect work in us.
Let’s all make a decision to truly worship God every day – all the time, and to worship Him in spirit and in truth.