Sunday, January 09, 2011

What is worship?

I just copied this from a comment I made on another blog...

I remember going to church when I was a lot younger and singing a bunch of songs that included things like, “I will worship you,” and things like that. It made me wonder what worship really was. I mean if singing those songs WAS worshipping God, then the lyrics should’ve said, “I am worshipping you.” So I remember in the back of my mind wondering when we were going to worship God, and what that would even mean.

Just the other day, I started thinking about the ways we worship, which usually include singing, praising, and praying. But we do all those things to ordinary people. We write songs about people, we congratulate people, and I communicate with people, sometimes even making requests (which is what “pray” literally means–to ask). So is worship just a more extreme version of all singing, praising, and praying to somebody? I mean obviously praise comes in degrees. We praise our children for getting good grades, or we praise our favourite apologist for giving a good talk. But the praise we offer God is a whole lot more lofty than the praise we give our fellow man. Is that really the difference? Is the distinction between worship and ordinary praise really just a matter of degree?

Some people say that anything we do for the glory of God is worship. Acts of kindness and charity can be considered a form of worship. Studying the Bible, or even studying philosophy can be considered a form of worship. I’m not sure how I feel about that because I can’t think of an Biblical examples of anything like that being referred to as worship.

There are several places in the Bible that say somebody “fell down and worshipped him.” When I was really little, I used to think worship was just bowing low with your hands in front of you, rising up, and bowing down again. But it can’t just be that. That’s just a physical motion. People even do it jokingly to each other (is that wrong?). Falling down can’t be equivalent to worship because (1) it’s possible to fall down and NOT worship, and (2) if they meant the same thing, the Bible would just say, “they fell down,” or “they worshipped.” It would be redundant to say “they fell down and worshipped.” But I suppose it could be that falling down was included in the worship. If so, what else was included? Since falling down, by itself, isn’t worship, but becomes worship when coupled with some other activity, what other activity is involved? Is it just a mental thing? Kind of like when everybody stands up when somebody enters the room? After all, standing up, by itself, is not an act of reverence, respect, or homage, but standing up as an intentional way of recognizing somebody’s authority, or respecting them IS an act of reverence, respect, or homage. It’s the intention that makes it so. Is it the same with “falling down and worshipping”? Is it worshipping just because of the intentional reason for falling down before God?

Thoughts anybody?


At 1/10/2011 12:48 PM , Blogger Mike Westfall said...

Good pondering, Sam.
Worshiping, I think, is intentional, and not just rote actions.

But that brings up another question from my Lutheran-leaning perspective: Is worship Law, or Gospel? And thus, is it effective for it's intended purpose?

And then, I wonder if the common concept of what constitutes "worship" is somehow off-kilter.

At 10/19/2011 4:32 AM , Blogger Richard W 4Christ said...

Hey Sam, this is a very well thought out good blog. I've struggled with that too at one point, but in all honesty, TRUE WORSHIP COMES FROM THE HEART. In the scriptures, verses that stick out like, "Acknowledge God in all your ways, and He shall direct your path" Love the LORD WITH ALL OF YOUR HEART, soul and mind, and LOVE your neighbour as yourself" "Hav no other gods before Me" "Where a man's HEART IS, THAT'S WHERE HIS TREASURE IS" "Blessed is the PURE IN HEART FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD" "The LORD takes pleasure in them that fear(reverence)Him, and those that HOPE in his mercy" "The LORD is near them that call upon Him IN TRUTH. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him: He will hear their cry and will save them" "But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father SEEKS SUCH A PERSON TO WORSHIP HIM. God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH" and lastly, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honours Me with their lips, but THEIR HEART IS FAR FROM ME. IN VAIN THEY WORSHIP ME". True worship means representing, respecting and honouring God in they way that one lives his/her life as adhering to whatever His law commands, making sure that IT'S COMING FROM THE HEART. God does not look on the outward appearance of man: He looks on the inside(I Samuel 16:7). You see, worship may come in a variety of ways and different settings: People bowing down, People thanking a lifesaver by giving gifts, people singing, people raising their hands, playing music, people driving, people walking, people sitting, meditation, people helping the homeless, people showing kindness in the home and in the name it. Worship is so many things in so many diverse settings. Why? Because true worship is FROM THE HEART. For example, let's recall what Jesus said in Matthew 5:27,28 when He spoke about adultery, "You have heard it from them in the old times, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery': But I say unto you that whosoever looks on a woman TO LUST AFTER HER has committed adultery with her already IN HIS HEART". That's what it boils down to in any case of violation of God's law. It's all about the heart with God. It ain't just how to worship. It's about THE HEART OF WORSHIP. "I am He who searches THE MINDS AND THE HEARTS"(Revelation 2:23). The style of worship has no greater impact than any style of WORSHIP FROM THE HEART. A person can be bowing down with his face on the ground kissing it as an outward expression, but his heart is bitter toward his neighbours, and you can have another person who may just be relaxing, sitting in his chair by the window silently watching the cars go by, but his heart is loving toward His neighbours. Which one of these two is engaged in true worship to God? This is not a trick question when we understand how God Himself sees one engaging in true worship. God is not looking solely at the style of worship. We may misunderstand His demand for people to worship Him because God does not have, what we call, an ego problem. He does not have insecurity issues. God is not merely demanding nor commanding people just to fall down in some sort of worship to Him. GOD IS SEEKING SUCH A PERSON TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND REVERENCE HIM IN THEIR LIFESTYLE WHICH TRULY COMES FROM THE HEART. To be precise, GOD IS ASKING US TO BE REAL AND TRUTHFUL TO HIM FROM THE HEART. For example, if we say that we're believers in Christ, what would God be looking to find in our hearts? Paul says it best in Philippians 4:8, "Whatsoever things are TRUE, whatsoever things are HONEST, whatsoever things are JUST, whatsoever things are PURE, whatsoever things are LOVELY, whatsoever things are of a good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be praise, THINK ON THESE THINGS".


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