Posted: 3/2/18 at 7:50am. Column by Ed Jordan.
There is much discussion today about worship. Many Christian songs, old or new, have the word worship in their title. The songs of the last couple of decades strongly emphasize the word worship in titles, such as: “Here I Am to Worship,” “We Worship and Adore You,” or “Come, Now Is the Time to Worship.” Many people ask, “What really is worship? How does one truly worship? When I worship, am I really worshipping God, or am I inadvertently worshipping something else?” I know I won’t have time to answer all those question, but perhaps exploring what worship is will help us understand it better.
Questions about where and how we should worship are not new, as we see in John 4 in the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Jesus said to the woman in John 4:13–14 (ESV): … “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” So worship involves a person who is thirsty for God, coming to him and drinking in his presence and his life-giving essence.
Jesus says it a little differently in John 4:23–24 (ESV): “But 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 in spirit and truth.” God is Spirit, so true worship involves coming into God’s presence, and declaring his value and worth as we focus on his many attributes of Spirit, truth, power, beauty, love, uniqueness (holiness meaning totally different from us), goodness, light, splendor, kindness, grace, mercy, forgiveness, rightness, righteousness (doing right), justice, discipline, majesty, eternal, and many others. Worship is all about God, not all about us. It is appreciating God for who he is as well as for all that he does.
True worship involves a personal encounter with the Living God. Worship connects us to God, and when we spend time in his presence—especially corporately together with others declaring the worthiness of God—we are humbled that such a wondrous God would even give a thought to us, let alone send Jesus to die in our place. Worship is acknowledging the greatness of God and the sinfulness of man; it is embracing the love of God in order to embrace others with the love of God. True worship involves being truthful with God.
Worship does not change God; it changes us. So a real test of worship is whether we are changed from having been in God’s presence. Because of her encounter with Jesus, the life of the woman at the well was completely changed. She experienced love, acceptance, and forgiveness. She immediately went to tell others that she had found God. She invited them to come meet Jesus, to come and worship God (cf. John 4:28, 29)–and come they did.
Worship connects us with eternal God in all his beauty and majesty, in all his love and forgiveness, and in all his compassion and transforming power. Whenever we encounter awesome God as he truly is, we find ourselves as we really are: people in need of changes in our lives.
Where and how are we to worship God? Worship him with people who are true, open, vulnerable, and real. Worship God because he is God, and he alone is worthy of worship (see Matthew 4:10)!
Isaiah came into the temple in Jerusalem to get answers from God regarding the death of good King Uzziah (Isaiah 6). When Isaiah saw the Lord in all his glory, he recognized his own sinfulness. Isaiah experienced God, and God’s holiness, mercy, love, and forgiveness. Then he was cleansed and given the task to go speak for God. Meeting with God changed everything.
When was the last time you really worshipped? If you didn’t meet God, and that encounter didn’t change you and send you out to make a difference for him in the world, perhaps you have not really worshipped God. In true worship we encounter God, encounter ourselves and our inadequacies, are changed in some way, and sent out to share with other the awesome reality of God.
So who needs worship? We all do!