Most mornings you will find me in my kitchen streaming my favorite Bethel song through my phone. Currently, I can’t get enough of this one. The words make me want to stand up and cheer, burst into tears, and sing at the top of my lungs.
One of the perks of technology is that it allows us to hear powerful worship music at any time. Rather than waiting for Sunday morning, we can listen to talented worship teams with the click of a button. I love that! Even so, Bethel is not my favorite worship band. Neither is anyone else I can hear on Christian radio or stream through my phone. To understand why, we might need to redefine worship.
No Drums Required
Often we use the words “worship” and “music” interchangeably. We think of the songs at the beginning of a church service as the worship time. If we have an event that is mostly music, we call it a “worship service.” The head musician at our church is often called the “worship pastor,” and sometimes we call our favorite Christian bands “worship bands.” This all can muddy the waters a bit when we’re trying to understand what worship truly is.
Let’s turn down the soundtrack for a second and run to the Bible together to find out how God defines worship.
True worship is humble. In Genesis 24:26 we read, “The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD.” The posture of this worshiper gives us our first clue in our quest to define it. Did you catch it?
True worship is never about drawing attention to ourselves or our achievements. It is an expression of humility.
He bowed his head. Bowing is a position of humility. It’s our body’s way of acknowledging that someone is greater than we are. Worship is an expression of our position in the universe. We admit that we are small and weak but that God is unlimited and powerful. True worship is never about drawing attention to ourselves or our achievements. It is an expression of humility.
True worshipers submit. Romans 12:1 asks us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, keeping ourselves holy and pure “which is your spiritual worship.” Living a life of purity is an act of worship, but it goes beyond that. Any time we submit to God’s plan we are worshiping because we are placing His desires above our own.
True worship happens with our heads and our hearts. In John 4:24, Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” There is an intangible, hard-to-explain side of worship that happens on our insides. We feel moved or convicted or grateful, and our heart expresses that to Jesus. That’s what it’s like to worship “in spirit.”
But worship is more than a feeling. We worship when we read God’s Word wanting to know more about Him. We worship when we say “yes” to righteous influences and “no” to ungodly ones. We worship when we tithe, giving a portion of our money back to God to be used to support His Church.
These ways may not always feel warm and fuzzy, but they are still acts of worship. This is how we worship Him “in truth.” God wants us to use every piece of our lives to express our love for Him. We worship Him with our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our checkbooks, our choices . . .
True worship is about Jesus. I find the most compelling definition of worship in 1 Chronicles 16:29:
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
Simply put, worship is giving God glory. He certainly is worthy! We don’t need a worship band to truly worship. We don’t have to drum up an emotional response to glorify God.
Any time we thank God for His many gifts, we worship.
Any time we live for Him instead of for ourselves, we worship.
Any time we live according to His design, we worship.
Any time we shift the focus off of us and onto Him, we worship.
Any time we follow His law, we worship.
Any time we forgive, we worship.
Any time we repent, we worship.
Any time we serve, we worship.
Worship is giving God glory.
While I love to sing about Jesus, I don’t need a powerful ballad to help me worship. Often my Bible is my favorite worship band. Sometimes it’s the birds who sing outside my backdoor. Many times it’s my family who help me see the goodness of God and choose to live like He calls me to.
More Than a Feeling
Part of the reason I love to start my day listening to Bethel is that their music nudges me toward this kind of worship. Many of their lyrics are straight Scripture, and it’s all about Jesus. However, I don’t ever have to pop my earbuds in to truly worship. I can worship God with loud or soft music, or no music at all.
By all means, let’s keep listening to great music that declares the name of Jesus. Let’s get ourselves to church and worship alongside other believers every chance we can. But let’s not get too caught up in the idea that guitars and drums must be playing for us to worship and let’s get busy looking for big and small ways to ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.
PS: Worship is something we haven’t talked about much here on the blog. Let’s change that! I’d love to hear your questions about worship whether it’s “Why do some people raise their hands in worship?” Or “What can I do if I don’t like the worship style at my church?” or “Why did David worship the Lord in his underwear?” (true story) or anything else that’s on your mind about worship. Leave your questions in a comment below, and our team will get to work on a future series about worship.
PPS: I found this article “What Is True Worship” helpful as I thought about this post. Maybe you will, too. I love the definition of worship as “having an extravagant or exaggerated love for God.”