Before I get to the subject I'll tell you about a first. This is the first time I have used wi-fi in the air on AirTran. It's wonderful and fast. So this is my first blog post from 38,000 feet.
Worship. What is it? Let's start by talking about what it is not. Once you see how black and white this is I trust that you will be completely free to worship God, perhaps for the very first time. Please hold your judgments for a moment a hear the Word of God.
Interestingly, the phrase "worship and praise" is not found in the King James Bible. There is only one place in the Bible where the two words are found in the same context:
Psalm 138:2, "I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name."
I will jump to a conclusion here to explain what worship is not and then backfill with more Scripture later. Perhaps you'll agree with me the point I want to make is that worship and praise, most often associated with music, is simply not a Biblical association. Not that it is wrong mind you. I make the point in order to show you a more glorious thing.
Likewise, worship and prayer are not associated contextually in the Bible. That means two things: 1) worship and prayer are not equivalent, and 2) they also don't necessarily go together Biblically although again, it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Finally, the association of the words worship and serve are found fifteen times in the Bible. To understand the association, you must know God's first commandment found in Exodus 20:1-6, "And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."
We'll come back to the importance of this association later.
What I want to show you is the singular act of worship from God's Word. First, the Scripture references to help us along:
Psalm 95:6, "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker."
Psalm 29:2, "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness."
Psalm 96:9, "O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth."
John 4:24, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
Philippians 2:9-11, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
OK lesson 1 - a little Hebrew and Greek. The word "worship" means to bow down to or to prostrate oneself. Every single usage of the word in the Bible means exactly that. There is no singing, hand waving or raising, praying, crying, blessing, or any other thing that we commonly associate with the act of worship.
The purpose of this study is not question why we do what we do when we say we worship. As I said, the associations we make and the actions that we take are not necessarily bad or wrong or sinful. But they do lessen the reality and glory of worship as God intends it.
But why don't we see folks worship in a kneeling or prostrate position? Is it just a cultural thing that we do not? Does it really matter what position we are in? Can't we worship in our car as well as our pew? Let's look at those Scriptures above for lesson 2.
Jesus clearly told us how to worship - in spirit and in truth. Does anybody know how to do this? I struggled for months with it. Here's the answer.
"In spirit" means in one spirit to Spirit communion with God. That is what David meant in the Psalm. Worship in the beauty of holiness. Holiness comes from God alone. Our personal holiness comes from the sin-saving blood of Jesus. In our moments of worship, we must therefore be right, clean, holy, and sinless before God (both positionally and experientially). As Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
"In truth" means in God's truth. That means we are to worship God's way. He made that explicitly clear in the first commandment. He made it abundantly clear to us in Paul's letter to the Philippians. At the name of Jesus, we are to kneel and worship (bow down). Again, how often do you see this? How often do you do this? Why or why not?
One of the drivers that should drive us to our knees every time (for the Scripture does not allow for a time when we don't need to) is again from the Psalmist. Fear before Him. Fear. I think we presume too much at times when we boldly come to God's throne but we don't come in fear. This requires much meditation to recognize the depth and power of that statement. I will simply say, as a friend did to me as I shared this with him the other day, "Coming to God on our knees or prostrate certainly minimizes the opportunity for pride. We have to come in humility." Indeed, what is on your mind when you come boldly?
For the past many months, God continually impressed upon my mind this little command, "Worship me." As I studied and struggled with it, He kept asking. I sense He asks for two reasons. One, because it is the glory due His name. Second, because I fear He gets too little of it from His Church. I don't think He feels alone or forgotten. He is just trying to wake us up to what we should be doing consistently, lovingly, willfully, desperately, and whole-heartedly.
God says when we seek Him with our whole heart, we will be blessed (Psalm 119:2), we will have understanding and keep God's law (Psalm 119:34), and we will praise Him both in the world and in the congregation (Psalm 138:1, Psalm 111:1). I think most of all what God wants is for us to come away from worship in complete obedience to His commandments. This is what Jesus meant in John 14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments."
Finally, what is the connection between worship and serving? To serve means exactly that, to labor or work. How do we worship and work for the Lord our God? The work, in Biblical context, is always linked to worship and sacrifice. No exceptions. The work is the services performed in sacrifice. What sort of sacrifices to we give to God today?
When we come to God boldly in obedience to Romans 12:1-2, we do our reasonable service. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Again, when you walk away from true worship, God is pleased. He will have impressed upon your mind and heart His specific will for you. It will be directly in line with the keeping of His commandments. It will specifically and solely be for His glory.
Now the question. Have you seen Jesus on your bended knee or prostrately? Has He given a Word just to you to obey? Have you worshipped ever before in your life before now?