The first time I heard worship described as a spiritual discipline, I was a little confused. As a worship leader, I had dumbed worship down to the 30 minutes of singing on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday night. Even my language revealed my compartmentalized view of worship: ‘This is worship time, this is preaching time, this is offering time…’
If you were to ask around the church for a while I think you would get a similar answer. But the Bible tells us something different. In order to understand worship as a spiritual discipline, we must first gain a biblical definition of worship.
Bethlehem Baptist Church defines worship in this way: “Worship is the extravagant, open enjoyment of God as the fountain of life. And therefore it is a public declaration that God is more to be desired than all the pleasures of this world.”
Every single person on this planet is a worshipper of something. Take the word ‘God’ out of the definition above and replace with something else: success, money, family, comfort… We see such worship all around us. What sets us apart as believers is not that we are worshippers, but who we are worshipping.
The following characteristics of biblical worship are adapted from a sermon preached at NewBranch titled How God Makes a Worshipper on 5/25/2008:
Worship is a Lifestyle
In 1 Corinthians 10:31 the Apostles Paul gives the goal of the Christian life: So, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” We are not to merely glorify God when we sing songs to Him on Sunday mornings. We are not merely to glorify God when we pray or read His word. We are to glorify God in ALL things. When we are driving to work, when we are jogging in the morning, when we are eating dinner, when we are putting the kids to bed, when we are doing homework, when we are giving our tithes and offerings, when we are hearing the word expounded… we are to glorify God.
Worship is Corporate
While the New Testament rarely discusses corporate worship in the way we imagine it, the scriptures very clearly point out the importance of gathering regularly to fellowship and lift high the name of Jesus:
- Colossians 3:15 -16 “And let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
- 1 Corinthians 14:23 speaks of “the whole church gathering together.”
- Acts 2:46 speaks of the early church “attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes.”
- Hebrews 10:25 speaks of “not neglecting to meet together.”
While corporate worship is important, the believer must never forget that the deciding factor of true worship is one’s inward condition.
- John 4:23-24 “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.”
Worship is Fuel For Evangelism and Missions
Since God’s goal is His glory, He longs for the people of all nations to praise His name. With this in mind, worship should not simply be a personal thing. It should stand as the goal of our evangelism and missionary efforts. We should stand before God as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6. After peeking into a heavenly worship session, he responds as every believer should:
- Isaiah 6:8 “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’”
Fortunately, we don’t have to sit around and wonder what God wants us to do. Jesus made it very clear:
- Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
In his book Let the Nations be Glad, John Piper points out: “The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God… But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching… Missions begins and ends in worship.”
Next week we will look at how this biblical definition of worship plays out practically in our everyday lives.