Do you know what God is looking for?
I remember a particular service at our church when I stopped the singing. There was nothing wrong with the song we were singing, but there was apathy in our response toward God that day that was almost oppressive. When I stood up and looked out over the crowd I saw people on their phones. Others were sitting with their arms folded and still others stood singing with little to no passion. Perhaps a few were engaged in true worship that day, but the vast majority in the crowd that day was unmoved, unresponsive, distracted and disengaged.
I wonder how many churches are filled with disengaged worship. Has worship in our churches become a religious activity or lifeless ritual that we merely do to fill time until we get to the sermon? And what is worship? For some, worship is singing a hymn. Others prefer southern gospel. Throughout the 70s and 80s, we were inundated with choruses. However, the church that I grew up in was careful not to get too emotional lest we be like the “Charismatics.” For some, worship is only singing. Others believe worship includes choirs and bands, but worship is certainly more than a song, isn’t it? The Bible states some strong imperatives when coming before the Lord such as: to clap our hands and shout with joy (Psalm 47:1), come before His presence with thanksgiving (Psalm 95:2), and bow down and kneel before the Lord (Psalm 95:6). These are commands to clap, shout, give thanks, bow down, and kneel. There’s nothing about singing a song in those statements. Yet, we’re told to sing with joy in Psalm 33:1. In fact, the psalmist goes on to say that we are to sing a “new song” (v. 3). You realize that means singing an inspired or Spirit-led song? Paul called this “supernatural songs” (see Eph. 5:19).
However, worship is so much more than singing, clapping, and shouting. Jesus said, “An hour is coming, and now is, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:23). First, Jesus underscores true worship; implying that worship can be phony, unspiritual, and even counterfeit. To sing a song about being set free from all chains while still in bondage might be labeled as false declarations. Worship, according to Jesus, must be authentic, real, and rooted in sincerity. Secondly, Jesus indicated the centrality of all worship: the Father. Worship is always aimed toward Him. In fact, worship is not an initiation on our part, it’s a response. We are simply responding to His love. God so loved us; He loved us first, so through worship we are responding to His outrageous love toward us.
Third, Jesus indicated that true worship emanates from the deepest part of our lives. He said we are to worship in “spirit.” This surpasses emotions and feelings. We are never to allow how we feel at the moment to dictate our response to God in worship. My choice to give thanks to God is not only His will for my life, but it often changes the way I feel (see 1 Thess. 5:18). Additionally, true worship is unpretentious because it’s wrapped in truth. Therefore, I can be raw and honest before God. His truth actually sets me free (see John 8:32).
There’s another thought about worship that I want to define, and it’s the actual term “worship” (proskuneo). This word means to lick the hand like a dog does its master. About a year ago, we got a dog, despite my wife and me saying that we never would again have a dog. However, my reluctance of owning a pet was quickly overshadowed by the constant affection from this little twelve pound miniature dachshund. The moment that I enter the house, she’s in my arms licking my hands, arms, and face if I allow her. Her constant affection doesn’t depend upon what is going on in our world. Politics, finances, sickness, or stresses of ministry are no distraction to this dog; her affection for me is endless regardless. Watching her express excitement over my presence might give some idea of this word proskuneo.
A Canaanite woman who approached Jesus had no trouble in expressing her affection and love toward Him. Jesus first ignored her, then told her that He wasn’t sent for her, and finally said that He wasn’t going to offer Israel’s bread to her (see Matt. 15:21-28). But nothing stopped her affection for Jesus because she bowed down before Him; she worshiped Him. She was unrestrained and unoffended both by her circumstances and by what Jesus said to her. She knew Jesus was the Son of David—the promised Messiah—who was the Lord of all, so she fell at His feet and licked His hand like an affectionate dog. Sounds humiliating, doesn’t? I would like to suggest that humility is the root attitude in true worship. It’s the humble, broken and contrite heart that God will not despise (see Psalm 51:17). Those who humble themselves are the ones that God exalts (see James 4:10).
Worship is so much more than a song during a Sunday service; it’s a lifelong attitude of going lower and slower every day. True worship is an increasing affection for God that showers praise and thanksgiving to Him in every moment of our lives. It encompasses every part of your life because you are to live consciously aware of His presence in everything that you do. Therefore, you worship in a variety of ways such as: singing, clapping, dancing, painting, kneeling, praying, working, or simply laying prostrate at His feet in humble adoration. True worship never ends, so we never need to “start” a worship service; rather, we enter into an ongoing celebration.
These are the kinds of worshipers that the Father seeks.
Dear God, may I live to worship you in everything that I do, amen.