For years the church talked a lot about the holiness of God and the righteousness of God, and for years the church told us we should have the fear of God. When you walked into a church sanctuary, there was a reverent tone.
But then there was a swing in the other direction. Of course, it’s a good thing to talk more about the love of God, the mercy of God and the forgiveness of God. But I wonder whether we have, in some ways, gone too far that way.
Should we not talk about both? Should we not talk about a loving, gracious, forgiving Father who longs for a relationship with us, but not leave out the fact that he is holy and righteous and just? This is important, because the Lord himself says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16 NKJV).
I had the privilege of being around during the Jesus Movement when what we called contemporary worship was born. But one thing we must never lose sight of is this: When we worship, it’s more than just singing. It’s more than just closing your eyes; it’s opening your eyes to a lost world that desperately needs the Gospel.
Worship is practical. It happens before church, and it happens after church. Worship is not only singing; it’s serving.
In Romans chapter 12, the apostle Paul wrote, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (NLT).
Then he went on to say, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (verse 2 NLT).
Paul was basically saying that worship isn’t only singing. It isn’t only praying. Worship is giving your life to God every day. It’s giving your mind, your heart and your thoughts to God.
Worship is also giving financially to God. It’s being a loving husband or wife. Worship is being a single person who lives a pure life. Worship is working hard with honesty and integrity. These are all acts of worship.
In fact, if we are not worshiping from the right heart, God says that he doesn’t want to hear our music anymore. Speaking in the Old Testament book of Amos, God said, “Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living” (5:23–24 NLT).
That’s why Jesus said, “For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24 NLT).
We worship him because he is worthy. The word worship comes from an old English word that could be translated “worthship.” In other words, we worship a God who is worth it. He deserves our praise.
The word worship also means “to ascribe worth or value to someone or something.” A number of words translate as “worship” in the Bible. The one used most frequently means to bow down and pay homage.
We find its first appearance in Genesis 18, when three visitors came to the home of Abraham: “He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground” (verse 2 NLT). Abraham paid homage because he recognized these visitors had come from God.
Another biblical word that translates as “worship” means “to kiss toward.” It conveys the idea of reverence.
Putting these two words together, we get an idea of what worship is and what it should be. We worship God because He is worthy. And in doing so, we bow down and pay homage to him. That speaks of reverence and respect for God. But we also “kiss toward” him, which speaks of tenderness and intimacy.
So God wants us to reverence him and honor him. But at the same time he wants tender intimacy in our worship.
We worship God because he deserves our praise. And he is always worthy of our praise, even when things aren’t going well. He is still worthy of our praise when we’re in a bad mood, when we have a cold, when the car is broken down and when the bills aren’t paid.
Think about Job. Talk about having a bad day. In a matter of hours he lost his family, his possessions, and his health. Everything fell apart. So what did he do? The Bible says he fell down and worshiped. He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21 NLT).
Yes, we can worship in the midst of difficult circumstances. It doesn’t mean that we give thanks for the bad things. Rather, we give thanks for the fact that God is still on the throne. Basically we’re saying, “Lord, in spite of what has happened, I still praise you because you are worthy.” There’s a difference.
We shouldn’t worship God just because everything is going well. We should worship him because he is always worthy of our praise.
Also, we shouldn’t worship God for what we can get out of it. We don’t worship God to get a blessing or because we want an emotional experience. No, we worship toward the goal of exalting, magnifying, and praising God for his worthiness.
A. W. Tozer said, “Whoever seeks God as a means toward desired ends will not find God. God will not be used.”
God doesn’t want to be used as a means to an end. He is the end. He is the one we aim toward. The gods of our own making will disappoint us, but the true God never will.