It’s one thing to know something intellectually but it’s a very different thing to know it by experiencing it. Like, you might know you are afraid of heights but you know it in a very different way if you find yourself standing on the edge of a tall building peeking over the edge at the sidewalk down below when the people look like tiny ants and you have that intense feeling in your gut and you start to freak out—you know it differently then.
You might know that you were proud of your son or your daughter because of something they said or did, maybe some amazing accomplishment or the way they handled something—you know it intellectually—but if you’re like me and you start telling someone the story you start to FEEL it. You get a lump in your throat and your heart swells in your chest.
You might know that God so loved the world that He sent His Son so that anyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. You might know that. What American doesn’t know that? It’s the most well known Bible verse in the world. But when you realize that God loves YOU, that He sent His one and only Son to earth to die for YOUR sins, so that YOU can believe in Jesus and have the hope and assurance that when you lay down to go to sleep for the last time you will wake up in eternity wide awake and fully restored, refreshed and redeemed, like you had the best night’s rest with the most wonderful dreams.
Tonight I’m talking about worship. What does worship mean? Why do we worship? We’re here at NewChurch every Saturday night to worship God. We end the previous week and begin the next week together here in the presence of God. Why? What are we doing?
I figure this is a pretty crucial thing to get right since we’re starting a church together. Don’t you think? The tagline for NewChurch is “worship GOD. Love people.” What do we mean by “Worship GOD?” What does loving people have to do with it?
Does worship God simply mean going to church? The main auditorium in most church buildings is called the “worship center,” we talk about “going to worship” as a euphemism for “going to church.” Or is worship just the music part? For eleven years one of my titles at the previous church was “worship leader,” and let’s be honest, I was called that because I led the music and the singing. There is a genre of music called “worship music” populated by people who are called “Worship artists.”
I want us, as a church, as NewChurch, to be on the same page for what “worship” means. Over the next couple of messages we are going to talk about a Biblical view of worship from my and Kemper’s perspective.
Does that make sense? If we are going to start a church together—a worshiping body of believers—doesn’t it make sense that we should want to have a unified understanding of what worship is and what we are starting? What we’re actually doing?
There are several words in the Bible that are translated as “worship” and all of those words mean different but complimentary things. The English word “worship” really only carries the connotation of one of the concepts. Our word “worship” has the basic meaning of “to ascribe worth to” or to be worthy. You’ve heard that before, right? It’s why we have so many English worship songs that say things like “You are worthy of my praise” and “You alone are worthy” etc.
About twelve verses in the Bible convey this concept directly, and they’re usually talking about “praise” rather than “worship:”
Deuteronomy 10:21 says
“He alone is your God, the only one who is worthy of your praise”
2 Samuel 22:4
“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise
In the New Testament—Romans 9:5
Christ himself … is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise!
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
Actually, “praise” is what most of us really mean when we say “worship.” Praise is when we talk about the greatness of God, sing about the marvelous works of God, thank God for all that He has done for us—that is praise. God alone is worthy of our praise. Praise is part of our worship but it is only part of our worship.
Kind of like taking care of a baby. Holding, loving and talking to your baby is part of taking care her but it’s not everything involved in taking care of a baby. You also have to feed her, change her, bathe her, dress her and teach her everything she needs to know to grow up to be a human being.
We praise God because He is worthy is part of worship but there is much, much more to it.
I like to think of worship as “gathered worship” and “scattered worship.” There is the worship we do when we come together as a church, to sing together, hear God’s Word together, pray together and be together over a meal. Then there is “scattered worship,” which is everything we do once we walk out those doors and back into the real world where we live the rest of our lives.
I think a good overall definition of worship is this: Everything we do in response to God. God calls us to Himself through Jesus, He saves us and we respond in worship. We worship by praising Him with singing, we worship Him by thanking Him through prayer and we worship Him by living our lives as a living sacrifice—giving Him everything that we have to offer.
Worship is everything we do in response to God.
Throughout the Bible the words that are most often translated as “worship” in the Old Testament and in the New Testament are words that mean to bow before a king. To bow down, face down, pledging our devotion, honor and service to our king. To submit our will, our life, our treasure, our sword and our future in service and allegiance to our King. Our King who is Jesus who is the Lord God almighty maker of heaven and earth. It’s a big deal.
Like Exodus 20 where the ten commandments start with “You must worship God alone” and John 4 where Jesus says “Those who worship God must worship in Spirit and in Truth.” and in Luke 4 when Jesus says “You must worship the LORD your God and serve only Him.” This is the meaning of the word “worship” used over 165 times in the Old Testament and fifty-four times in the New Testament.
This is strange concept to modern western man. Think about it, most of us, if we were to meet the most powerful man in the world, our modern equivalent of a king, we would walk up to them like an equal, look them in the eye and extend our hand like we think we’re the king of some imaginary land in our mind. That’s not the picture we are supposed to have when we think of worshiping God. We are to think of bowing to a king and submitting our life in total service and humility—it’s a foreign concept to us in this culture.
Another word throughout the Bible that is simply translated as “worship” should actually be rendered more as sacrifice or offering. It is referring to sacrifices, offerings and service that takes place in the Temple. It is used specifically to detail Old Testament sacrificial worship but it is carried forward into the New Testament in verses like Romans 12:
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship.”
In response to God we present our lives, our whole lives, our talents, our money, our opinions, our intellect, our emotions—everything that is in our power we sacrifice to God in worship.
Worship not only means to bow down but also to serve, and the two ideas are completely interconnected—we can’t bow down to God without serving Him—not if it is going to be considered “worship.” We can’t have faith in Jesus without also obeying His commands and bearing fruit—faith without works is what? Dead. We can’t say we love God and hate our brother. We can’t expect God to forgive us if we are not walking in forgiveness toward those who have trespassed against us. We can’t remember what God has told us to do and then not do it—in a Biblical sense that would mean we forgot. Worship includes not only remembering but doing, not only bowing but serving.
Gathered worship is like our bowing and scattered worship is like our serving. Does that make sense?
In our gathered worship what do we do together? What are we trying to accomplish? As we respond to God in worship we want to be thankful, entering His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Why? Because God has given us so much to be thankful for, even in hard times and dark times. He has given us hope that no matter what— we’ll wake up in the morning to a new day—no matter what, even if we die, one day we’ll wake to eternity.
We gather together we can bow together in the presence of God, responding to all He has done for us and all that He is. He is our God and King.
When we stand, we are once again reminded that we are holy, it’s like we are knighted, we can scatter to the rest of our week filled with God’s grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We come as we are, everyone is welcome, and God meets us here—but He challenges us to leave changed—He invites us to come as we are but He loves us too much to leave us as we are. We come wounded and tired but leave healed, revived and wearing the king’s armor.
Worship is everything we do in response to God.
We respond to God in worship because God first loved us, in 1 John 4 it says: God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
I started this by talking about how we can know something or we can really know something. Worship is like that. We experience God’s grace and mercy when we lift our hearts and voices here. When we gather together for worship let’s respond to God with everything we have, all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Let’s bow down as deeply as we are able pledging our service to our God and King. Let’s sing our faces off with loud voices, lifting our hearts, our eyes and our emotions to honor the God who invites us to worship Him boldly—so that as we remind ourselves of who God is and what He’s done for us, we feel it, we experience it again.
We end the previous week and begin the next week together here in the presence of God. Real worship is when we respond to God’s love as we gather together and then live out that love when we scatter to worship Him with the rest of our lives. Worship God. Love people. They are actually the same thing when you come right down to it.