True worship of God, and specifically worship of God through song in today’s church, is something that my heart literally aches to see fulfilled in the way God intended it to be. So what is worship? And how do we worship? These are two questions that, by the end of this post, I hope to have answered. I was raised southern baptist and my Dad was/is still currently a baptist pastor. There is literally so much that I could to say and want to say about this topic, but as I am refrained to only two paragraphs or so, so I will try to keep it brief. All of you know I’m a big talker, so let’s see how this goes. . . (bear with me, I promise it is all relevant!) The podcast I listened to (found here: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/05/20/whi-1102-the-worship-experience) stated at one point that “true worship is not defined by whether or not I am emotionally satisfied with my experience”.
So many people in the church today are getting it all wrong, they’re missing the point. Many of them have been told that if they send praises up to God that blessings will come raining down. So they only “praise” and “worship” God to get blessings, not because they love Him or want to thank Him for what He’s done in their lives. For example, when I was little, my mother tried to teach me about tithing and how when you give God money, He will bless you and you just might get even more money back than you had in the first place. Naturally, she said it a lot more eloquently than I just did, but what I got out of it as a 7 year old was: give God money = get a lot more money to spend on toys. So i constantly asked my mom for money and was always waiting for God to bless me with something new and exciting. The first time I gave tithe, it “worked” (I got a birthday card in the mail with money inside), but after that, I was disappointed to find it wasn’t working out quite like I had hoped. My mom eventually caught on and explained to me it didn’t work that way, that God sees our hearts and that we should give God everything we have with a loving, cheerful, thankful heart. I say all that to say that is how I believe many people see worship, as a means to get something they want. Branching off with that idea….many people out in the world today, not even necessarily in the church, want a “religious experience”. They want to experience something bigger than themselves, to be a part of something important, to matter. Come to think of it, everyone wants that; and they are all constantly searching for what that is that can fulfill that longing in their hearts, that we as Christ followers know is really them longing for Jesus to be in their lives. They want to feel “warm fuzzies” in their hearts and a reverence of something greatly significant. The podcast talked of people leaving the United States to live in Europe, because the people there hold a great reverence for God and/or spirituality. The general population longs for proof of something. To quote the podcast they want to “bring Jesus up from the grave or bring God down from Heaven”. What they don’t understand is the means of grace is the message of grace. God didn’t drag our sorry butts up to heaven and hand us some grace all wrapped in a bow, nor did Jesus drag us down to hell to fight Satan. He came to us, met us just as we were….dying and in sin and in slavery. Then He sacrificed His life for us so we could spend an eternity with Him. But we should not confuse that message by making it all about us. Yes, Jesus Christ died for us, but it is not about us.
Focusing more on the sacrifice part of that, why is the sacrifice itself so important?
Well, the bible says in 1 Peter 2:21 “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” So, if Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for us, then we are called to do the same. Romans 12:1 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Notice that last word, Worship? From this verse, we learn that true and proper worship is presenting one’s body as a living sacrifice. okay, so now what? That verse does NOT mean go kill yourself as a sacrifice, i.e. living sacrifice. So how do we present ourselves as living sacrifices? We give God everything. We give Him control of everything; our relationships with other people, our school work, our current circumstances, our past that we hate to remember, our past that we love. We give Him our future, or reputation, and we give Him the things we don’t want to give up. Things like that guy or girl we know we shouldn’t date but we do anyways. Things like that alcohol or those drugs that we just can’t seem to shake even if we wanted to. Or even something as simple as unwholesome talk, whether that be gossip or cussing, anything un-beneficial to the body of Christ. and when we give Him our lives, we cant leave anything back. There aren’t stories in the bible of sheep herders who said “Okay God, I know you want my best and all I have to offer, so how about I take my best lamb and give you one of it’s legs? That counts, right? or maybe You could have the body and I’ll take the head?” There aren’t stories like that because that is not proper worship. That is not true worship.
Webster’s dictionary defines truth as “fidelity to the original”. Think about that for a minute. What was/is the original? God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. How do we know this? 1 John 1:1-3 says “We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning,whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” So let’s piece all this together…
- Truth is fidelity to the original.
- The original is Jesus.
- Jesus died on a cross as a sacrifice for mankind’s sin.
- As Christians we are called to present our bodies as a living sacrifice as a true and proper act of worship.
There is no mention of feelings and emotions. No mention that we should be expectant of anything in return. One of the quotes I love from the podcast was “God is present today. He is here today regardless of whether or not you feel Him”. That is so true and is what so many people seem to miss. worship is not based on feelings. A friend once told me “feelings are fickle” and that is such a true statement. There will be days when we don’t feel close to Jesus. But thank God (literally) that our salvation and our worship are not based on feelings. At the end of the day, scripture is the concrete evidence that God has given us to go by. And I believe that is the point these men were trying to get to in the podcast. Emotions are not what should determine our worship. In addition to that, worship is not simply singing songs in a church building or youth group. It is a life choice, presenting your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God as a true and proper act of worship.
This was all just food for thought. Well, more like a feast, I guess…but hopefully it got you thinking.