Worship is in the DNA of the human heart. God created mankind to worship and they will worship something; if not the true God, then they will worship something else or someone else. That is why every people group has one form of worship or another. When Paul got to Athens, he found a people that were preoccupied with worship. They were so religious that they even had an altar to the “Unknown God.” Paul told them that the One they worshipped intuitively, albeit wrongly, was the One he was presenting to them. (Acts 17:22-29). Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “You worship what you do not know…” (John 4:22). That is equally true today concerning most people.
All creation finds the fulfilment of their purpose in worship. The elders in heaven exclaimed: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, since you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created!” (Rev. 4:11 NET). They were declaring that God created all things and that those things still exist because it pleased God for them to exist. Therefore, we exist because we are a pleasure to God. When we worship Him, we give Him pleasure. God does not exist for us, rather we exist for Him.
Worship helps us to acknowledge the rule of God in our lives and puts us in our proper place before our creator. The Psalmist exhorts us: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand...” (Psalm 95:6-7).
NEW CREATION REALITY
If there ever was a people made for worship, Believers are those people. Our new nature in Christ helps us to effectively worship God (2 Cor. 5:17). We now have new status before God: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” (1 Pt 2:9). Note that God never refers to Believers as Levites but as Priests. The Levites primarily ministered to the people but the Priests ministered to the Lord (Deut. 21:5; 1 Chro. 23:13).
Worship then ceases to be what we say, but what we are. We are worshippers. Jesus said: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24). Since worship is the faculty of the human spirit, only born-again Christians can be true worshippers. (Phil. 3:3). To worship God in truth is to worship Him in sincerity, not faking it or merely going through the motions or rituals.
AWARENESS OF GOD
To grow in our worship we must increase in our awareness of God. As long as God is a distant reality our worship will be remote and plastic. When speaking to the Athenians, Paul said to them that God had placed mankind in different races and locations “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27). Paul was invariably saying to them: “God is nearer than you think!”
Our religious upbringing, like the Samaritan woman, has made us believe that worship can only happen in certain places. The truth is that anywhere you can experience God is a place of worship, is the house of God. Worshipping God in spirit implies that we can worship Him anywhere and anytime. God is everywhere but our ability to relate to Him depends on our awareness of His presence (Psalm 139:7). Sometimes, we are like Jacob, “Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:16).
One of the difficulties in our awareness of God stems from the dichotomy we have created between our worship and our daily lives. We tend to divide our lives along secular and spiritual lines. Certain activities are considered secular while others are regarded as spiritual. But as we look at the Early Church, we see that they had just one life and they lived it for God. They offered their “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” as their “true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:2 NIV).
Also, Jesus never divided His life between the natural and spiritual while He was physically in the world. He lived and walked in the presence of His Father. His confession was, “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:29). When we look at the prophets of old too, they had one life to live before God. Elijah said, “… As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand…” (1 Kings 17:1). Elisha also had the same testimony (2 Kings 3:14). They lived always in the consciousness of God.
The challenge we face is that many people do not have personal history with God; they do not have private relationship with Him. All their relationship is in public. That is why we have worship leaders who perform very well in public service but have no private worship in their home. All they do is to spiritually entertain but they cannot bring people into God’s presence. They are Levites and not priests!
Actually, every act of our lives should be to the glory of God, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31). Whatever we do, let Him be at the centre of it all. After all, “… in Him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28). As we go about our daily business we must be aware of God’s continuing presence with us.
The Lord desires to be in His holy temple wherever we are. Each of us is a temple in whom the Holy Spirit of God dwells (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:22). We are to be a mobile house of worship. Our responsibility is to ensure that our spirit is in unbroken fellowship with the Holy Spirit. We need to train our spirits to be in constant communion with the Holy Spirit.
PRAISE OR WORSHIP
We often try to divide our singing time in church into praise and worship segments (though we know that praise, thanksgiving or what we normally refer to as worship, are all part of worship!). However, praise and thanksgiving almost always express our gratitude for things that God has given us or has done for us. Thus, in praise, we are occupied with the thought of things. But when we worship, we are no longer thinking about things but the Lord Himself. We become preoccupied with Him. We are captivated by His beauty and attributes and worship Him for who He is. So, the real test to determine whether what you did was praise or worship is this: were you occupied with things or with God?
When we examine the songs we sing, they reveal whether it is praise or worship that we are doing. Most of our songs deal with our situation – our pain, struggles, breakthrough, what God is doing in us or will do for us. And those kinds of songs really excite us. The only challenge is that they focus on ‘me’ and not on God. There is certainly a place for such songs but if they become our only preoccupation each time we gather, then we are only feeding the human proclivity towards self-centredness.
It was to call back the church to the real meaning of worship that God led Matt Redman to compose the song: “The Heart of Worship.” Worship is about God. Many of us remember when we used to sing songs like – “We have come into His house, gathered in His name to worship Him….” The second stanza says – “Let’s forget about ourselves, concentrate on Him and worship Him…” Songs like that still resonate with true worshippers.
When we sing hymns like “O worship the King;” “Immortal, Invisible, God only wise;” “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty;” or contemporary songs like “You are beautiful beyond description;” “Agnus Dei;”“We declare your Majesty;” they help us to focus on God. While it is necessary to encourage and reassure ourselves with praise songs, we need to also cultivate songs that focus solely upon God.
At times, we may start out with praise and thanksgiving but if we stay long enough, we end up in worship. When you truly worship, you are no longer conscious of your physical environment, you are in the audience of One.
But worship even goes beyond having a good voice or using the right musical instrument. Otherwise, only the talented singers can engage in the act. There is a non-verbal aspect of worship which everyone can be involved in. When we live daily in reverence and consciousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are worshipping.
RESPONSE TO GOD
It was Napoleon Bonaparte who once said that, “If Socrates would enter the room we should rise and do him honour. But if Jesus Christ came into the room we should fall down on our knees and worship Him.” There will always be a response to the perceived presence of God, otherwise we are merely going through the motions. Throughout the Bible, when people realised that God was present, they responded in one way or another. Our response may sometimes depend on our personality. While some will weep, others will laugh; some will kneel, while others will stand; some will lift up their hands, while others will dance etc. Some churches try to legislate on corporate response but it is not necessary when people have learned to truly worship.
OUTCOME OF WORSHIP
The purpose of worship is fellowship with God. C.S. Lewis said that “It is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to people.” Worship brings us into God’s presence and when it comes, it refreshes and revives us. Moses reflected God when he came down from the mountain. The glory rubbed off on him. The Psalmist declares: “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11). The only reason people leave the place of worship feeling dry is because they never made a connection with His presence. There is no treasure greater than God’s presence; nothing satisfies like being in His presence.
There is an empowerment that comes from being in God’s presence. Whoever you worship is the person you will empower in your life; you come in harmony with whatever you worship (Psalm 115:8). People resemble what they worship! Ordinarily, an idol has no power, but when people worship it, they empower it to work in their lives. How much more when we worship the Almighty God?
Worship also changes the narrative of our lives. There is an exchange that takes place in worship. The Psalmist was probably speaking in the context of worship when he said, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.” (Psalm 30:11). The truth is that you can’t worship and worry at the same time; you can’t leave the place of worship as you came.
True worship should bring us to the place of divine encounter. When our worship goes far enough we shall encounter God. Such an atmosphere is rife with the manifestation of the supernatural. Miracles should be expected to occur in worship; both inward and outward healing happen when we are worshipping. As the intensity of our worship increases we shall begin to experience those manifestations that our hearts desire.
In worship, we realise our personal and corporate destiny. Worship aligns us to our purpose on earth. We were born to worship. The human heart finds its true niche in worship. God desires that our worship should move from the normative to a new level where He is our preoccupation, where only He satisfies.