By Tom Ewing
I remember attending First Presbyterian Church as a child in Greeley, CO. It was a required weekly activity for our family as my Dad was the senior pastor. The sign on the church lawn offered the name of the church, the minister’s name, and the mention that we “worship” on Sundays at 9 am. Each Sunday we filed reverently in the sanctuary to sing, pray, and listen to the sermon. A monthly communion would be added to the mix. I remember wondering,
“Is this worship? An hour spent doing spiritual things with a large group of people. Or is there something more?”
Fast forward 50+ years and I find myself as a seasoned worship leader wrestling with the same question! I do believe our church gatherings are an important aspect of our worship, but I’ve discovered that true worship is so much more.
What is true worship? And what happens when we worship?
What is Worship?
Biblical definitions of worship include: to adore on bended knees; to bless and honor; to show respect and submission to a superior; to ascribe worth unto something or someone.
When we worship, we are adjusting our lives to align with what we value.
When we worship, we are offering ourselves to what we have personally determined to be worthy or valuable. But how do we track or measure worship in our own lives? Great question. Here are my best thoughts at this point in my journey.
First, consider what things in your life are important and valuable. Family, work, God, relationships, entertainment, possessions, security, activities, etc. Write out a list. I want you to see that you already are a worshiper because you already have things you count as valuable. And if you are like me, you are adjusting yourself to align with what you value. This is important for us to recognize this if we desire our value (worship) of God to be a greater priority.
Next, in relation to the items you’ve identified as valuable, consider how you spend your time, talent, and treasure on them. A quick review of our weekly calendars will tell us how we are investing our time. The offering of our talents is assessed by how we direct the best efforts of our unique giftings and abilities. And of course, our bank statements reveal the treasure or monetary worth we have placed on things.
Romans 12:1-2 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
True spiritual worship involves the intentional offering of all that we are (time, talent, treasure) to God. Worship is the giving of our lives to the One we value the most.
In John 4:23-24, Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and is NOW here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and Truth.”
Why is God seeking worshipers? Does He need a daily dose of affirmation to prop up His self-image? Is He an egomaniac with a constant need to feed His pride? Does He require some “cheering on” to inspire Him to keep doing His amazing God stuff? Of course not!
His longing for us to be worshipers comes from the same drive that moved Him to send Jesus to the cross: Love!
God so loved the world (us) that He gave… His greatest desire is revealed in the prayer of Jesus in John 17, that we would all be one, together in love, and enjoying the fullness of life for all eternity.
Worship brings us back to a proper relationship with God. Worship yokes us to all that He is and all that He has done for us. Worship allows us to truly experience the love and care of our Heavenly Father. Worship positions us to rule and reign with Him in this life, and for all eternity!
What Happens When We Worship?
If I’ve learned one thing, it's this: God is a really smart God! His commandments and instructions provide a pathway towards our ultimate good and His ultimate glory. God knows that when we truly worship, change happens!
Psalm 115: 1-8 says, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name be the glory! For the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, where is their God? Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet but do not walk; they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in (worship) them.”
There is a biblical principle here that is quite astounding: Whatever we worship will affect who we are becoming.
II Corinthians 3: 16-18, “whenever anyone turns to the Lord… we are being transformed into His image.”
As we direct our attention and our affections (our time, talent and treasure) towards Him, we are changed into His likeness. Another way to put it is whatever I expose myself to will develop in my life. Wow!
You can also think about this in relation to the other things that we worship in life. Not only does worship have bearing on who we are becoming internally, but it also affects the external conditions around our lives.
James 4:8 - “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
This scripture among many others speaks to the reality that when we move toward God, He moves toward us. When we bring the weight of our lives (time, talent, and treasure) to Him, He weighs in on our lives and our world. I call this the revolving door of worship. When we move into His world, He moves into ours. And miraculous things happen when God enters the scene.
I love the account of Paul and Silas in Acts 16. You probably know the story, but it bears repeating. Paul and Silas have been thrown in jail in the city of Philippi. They could have been angry with God and/or sulked under the discouragement of the situation. But instead, they turned their focus upon the Lord in prayer and praise.
Acts 16: 25-26 says, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.”
The story goes on to explain that the jailer realized something supernatural had taken place and, with his family, came to salvation in Christ. They were even baptized that night! In the middle of negative circumstances, Paul and Silas moved toward God, and God moved into their situation with His power and authority.
So, what happens when we turn to God and draw close to Him? What happens when we offer our time, talent, and treasure to Him as spiritual acts of worship? His power and authority brings change to the people we are becoming and has supernatural effects on the conditions and people in our lives.
The best thing you can do to realize the potential of who God has created you to be is to worship Him!
The best thing you can do to see God’s power and life affect the world around you is to worship Him!
As I confessed earlier, I am a worship leader. You may wonder why I’ve talked very little about music or worship songs. It’s because I’ve come to learn that the act of worship has nothing to do with music. However, God has given us the gift of music to help direct our worship towards Him. Music is a tool that helps us offer our time, talent and treasure to Him.
I encourage you, from now on, when you sing a hymn or worship song, do it with a heart that says,
“God I offer my life to you. Give me the grace to direct more of my time, talent, and treasure toward You. I desire to see Your Kingdom come and will be done in me, around me, and for Your glory!”
Click here to listen to Tom Ewing's worship song!