More than a simple explanation of what worship is and what it isn’t, I like to talk about what happens when we worship!
And to start out, I’d like to ask you, like I do most every time I teach about worship, to answer this question before we go any further. What is worship, to you? Take a minute and jot something down, speak it out loud, share with a friend, or pause and think about it, Selah!
In the modern charismatic vein of understanding, worship operates in tandem mostly with musical expression. So, I’ll stick close to that understanding and also dip into worship as an expression of our lives as a response. A few key words to stick in the back pocket are: Love! Response! Adoration! Reverence! Expression! Heart! Journey! Intentionality! Freedom! Mountain Climbing! Sacrifice! Presence! Fire! Incense! Focus! Life! Encounter! Respons-ability! Eternity! Unity!
I feel like I could just stop right there and just let these words be like puzzle pieces! Memories of Kindergarten pop into my mind! Ok, boys and girls, let’s see if we can put these words into a sentence that gives some definition to what happens when we worship…
“We only love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Worship is a reciprocal response to God’s love that has been expressed from the beginning of time! In the beginning, His breath and vocal chord vibrations led to the creation of the world and He has not ceased to lovingly create. Throughout the Psalms we see that all creation is still responding to that loving and ongoing expression of His! Psalm 148 goes on a tangent walking us through all of creation, not just humanity, the stars, the oceans, the trees, the animals, all creation worshipping! Fast forward to the very end and we see in Revelation 5:13, And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” God started it and it ends with us returning to Him with the very breath He breathed into us as a loving expression of His great worth!!! Worth!
Worth. That brings me to another topic!!! Worship in its very basic English definition means worth-ship… what He is worth! So, in worship I like to think of a journey, a journey on the worth-ship! Exploring His worth! Its unsearchable!
Which leads us to the next word, Journey!!!! Psalm 84:5 in the NIV declares, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” Or as the ESV states it, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.” In both of these versions you read the language of “journey”! Another translation ends that passage saying, “…eager to make the pilgrimage to Mount Zion.” So these scriptures take us into more of the puzzle pieces listed earlier! Heart, Mountain, and Presence! In worship, in bringing our hearts to the Lord we find that within our hearts there is a pathway or highway to God’s very Presence! Zion means the place of God’s presence!
Throughout scripture there is this theme of God on mountains and us coming up His mountain. I love hiking in mountains!!!! So, this may mean more to me than the average Joe. But, mountain climbing takes effort, intentionality, and usually discomfort to reach deep within past what you think you might be capable of to taste the Glory of being at the pinnacle! In life, there’s so much that we have to push past to get to the Glorious presence of God, Mt. Zion! In Psalm 24 there is an invitation to come up the mountain to purify our hearts and hands and cast off every idol and find ourselves in the blessing of the Lord and the fullness of what He’s payed for, salvation!
It just keeps getting better!!! It’s in that place that we offer our sacrifice! The first mention of worship in scripture is the story of Abraham and Isaac! Where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his very precious and only son of incredible promise to God on an altar atop a mountain! When Isaac sheepishly asks, “Where is the animal for the offering?” Abraham prophetically, I believe, proclaims, “God Himself will provide the Lamb for the sacrifice.” And did He ever!?!?!!? He provided His very Own Son of precious promise, The Pure and Spotless Lamb as the Sacrifice to save the World once and for all and for all of time!!!
Today, God desires from us nothing less. He wants our most precious thing, our very livelihood, our blood pumping organ that supplies life to the rest of the body, the seat-bed of all that we emotionally feel, the place where all of our secrets are hidden, the thing that contains all of our love, our HEARTS!!!! He wants them offered to Him. He is an All-consuming Fire! He wants them on His altar, the sacrifice of our hearts! Psalm 51 says, “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken and repentant heart…” He wants our hearts and He wants them set on fire! Fire should happen in worship or we are probably missing something. The incense of our lives is pleasing to Him! But more than that he is pleased when we spread the flame! 2 Cor 2:14,15 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us triumphantly as captives in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”
Fire also melts and melds things together. His desire is unity! All Nations with one voice returning the breath that was breathed in the beginning in one song to the One God! Worthy is the Lamb! Lets explore and express His worth until the day that we are all one with Him! Seeking leads to finding, finding leads to responding, responding is worshipping and worship is the fuel for missions! I’ll end with this quote from John Piper – “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white hot enjoyment of God’s glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God.”
Lets Worship and lead others to the same great awakening!