What is Worship?
(Week 1 in a 4 week study of Worship)
Lesson Text: Psalm 99
Preached in Quabbin Valley on 5/31/09
Man was created to worship, we are physical and spiritual beings and we will worship something or someone because that is how we were created. Some worship their cars as they spend all day washing and waxing them and driving around in them others worship money or people. We have a show, I am sure everyone here has at least heard about called American Idol. Millions of people worship the men and women on that show but even though we are worshippers by nature many have no clue what they are doing or even what worship is. Even though who are Christians may not know what worship is?
When you hear the word worship what comes to mind? Do you think of someone bowing before a little statue and giving it fruit or flowers? Do you think of huge church buildings with stain glass windows? Some when they hear that word they think about music, the singing of hymns and songs to God. There are some religious groups that use instruments of music in their services and that is what many people think of as worship, the playing of instruments. There are even worship services that are nothing but songs, sometimes called praise and worship services. One article I read had this to say:
In the "Religion" section of our local newspaper, an article appeared titled "Youth Worship, 2.0." It described the worship activity of several youth churches in town, separate and apart from their "main" denominations. It described using rock music that really “gets them into it.” To enhance “hipness” and a casual atmosphere, one group had graphite covering the walls of where they meet and the ceiling painted black. At another assembly, Elvis Presley’s “Burning love” was played to "add a modem twist to things that happened long ago.” One of the ministers of these groups was quoted as saying, "Nobody wants to go to some big religious service.” GOSPELADVOCATE • APRIL 2006 pg 28 (In Spirit and In Truth by Robert Johnson)
That’s what some people think of when they think of worship, the music.
Others think about worship as being the Sunday morning service, the songs the readings and the sermon as well as the Lord’s Supper but is that all that worship is? What is worship? We use the word all the time but what is worship biblically?
1) Two words for Worship
a. There are two words in the New Testament that are translated as worship most often. There are a few others but they are rare.
i. The first is προσκυνέω which means to “(fall down and) worship, prostrate oneself before” homage or respect, to fall down before some being or thing and to consider yourself in subjection to that person or thing.
1. Greeting the King: There is a story about some Noblemen who were gathered together in London waiting for the King of Great Britain. They all knew him personally, yet they all honored him as their king. When he entered, they stood solemnly to their feet. “Take your seats, gentlemen,” he said, “I count you as my personal friends.” And then joking he added, “I am not the Lord, you know!” Immediately one of the noblemen, a Christian, said, “No, sir, if you were our Lord, we would not have stood to our feet; we would have fallen to our knees.”
2. That’s the idea of προσκυνέω to knell or fall down.
ii. The second word is λατρεύω which means to “serve by carrying out religious duties”. The idea is service.
b. Worship means to honor or revere, to respect or be devoted to and it means to serve by carrying out religious duties.
c. Often we think of things like prayer and reading our bibles as religious but what about love?
i. Jesus said in Luke 10:27… "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." (Luk 10:27 ESV)
ii. Loving God is an act of worship. We are to love God with all our emotions, the heart, we are to love God with our work or the things we do, our strength, we are to love God with all our intellect, our mind and we are to love God with our very essence or nature, all that makes us human, our soul. When we do that we are worshipping God. Now when we love our neighbor we are not worshipping our neighbor we are worshipping God because God said “love your neighbor as yourself” and John the Apostle wrote:
1. 1 John 4:20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1Jo 4:20 ESV)
iii. There is a connection between loving God and loving others and when we love as God has called us to love we are worshipping God. When I love my neighbor I am doing it because I want to honor God and that is an act of worship.
iv. What about doing an honest and a good days work? When I go to my job and I do my very best is that worship? It most certainly is. We have become so accustomed to separating the religious from the secular in our society, separation of church and state and things like that, that we think that the religious is one thing and the secular another but for the Christian there is no separation. All that we say and all that we do is to be done in the name of Jesus, with our hearts focused on Christ which is an act of worship.
2) Humble Attitude
a. Worship requires a humble attitude. Remember that one of the words means to “bow down” or “fall before” another being. When you fall with your face to the ground you are saying to the one you fall before “you’re my superior and I am your servant” you place the object of worship higher than yourself.
b. We sing a song: Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord. A humble person recognizes who they are in relation to the one worshipped.
i. One man wrote: Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of … Our Father Which Are in Heaven. A. W. Tozer, quoted in D. J. Fant, A. W. Tozer, Christian Publications, 964, p. 90
3) Only God is worthy of Worship
a. Worship is something exclusive to God. We are to worship only God and no other.
i. Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), (Exo 34:14 ESV)
ii. Matthew 4:8…(We read) the devil took him (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship (PROSKUNEO) me." 10 Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "'You shall worship (PROSKUNEO) the Lord your God and him only shall you serve (LATREUO).'" (Mat 4:8 ESV)
b. Jesus here clearly shows us that God alone is to be worshipped.
i. In revelation 19:9 there is an angel with John the Apostle it reads: Revelation 19:9 And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God."... (Rev 19:9 ESV)
ii. Revelation 22:8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God." (Rev 22:8 ESV)
God alone is to be revered and worshipped. Not even highly exalted angels are to receive worship. After all God is the creator and we are his creation. We are made in his image and have dominion over the earth but we must always remember that he alone is God and he alone is to be worshipped. No angel is to be worshipped; no man is to be worshipped, no object like a car or tv but God alone.
4) Worship in Spirit and in Truth
a. We have an idea, I hope, of what the word worship means. It means to bow down and to serve, to place the object of worship over you and to be in submission. We touched on the idea that to worship we must be humble. The very definition and acts of worship are humbling when properly understood. And we saw that God alone is to be worshipped.
i. John 4:23 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. (Joh 4:23 ESV)
b. I plan on preaching over the next two weeks on this subject of worship and so today has really only been an introduction to the idea of worship but before I finish this morning I want to bring up briefly a few more things about worship.
c. Jesus said that God was looking for those who would worship him in Spirit and in Truth. What does that mean?
i. Spirit has to do with the attitude a person comes to worship God with and we talked about being humble but it also carries the idea of sincere worship, honest worship, from the heart. God is looking for those who have their hearts toward him and truly love him and truly want to worship him. He is not interested in those like the Pharisees who had the outward religious works but their hearts were far from him. Remember Jesus said:
1. Matthew 23:27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. (Mat 23:27 ESV)
ii. Truth has to do with knowing God and what he wants. God doesn’t want people who are only sincere in their worship he wants those who know him and know what he wants and how he wants to be worshipped. Some of this has to do with how we worship on Sunday morning. God has told us how he wants us to worship in the assembly. But he also has told us how he wants us to worship him throughout the rest of the week. He wants us to love him and honor him and to serve him by loving and serving others.
1. James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (Jam 1:27 ESV)
iii. This is not talking about Sunday morning worship service but how we live our lives. Taking care of those in need. Paul said:
1. Romans 12:1 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. (Rom 12:1 ESV)
iv. To worship God in Spirit and in truth means to worship God with a sincere heart and to know him and how he wants to be worshipped.
Today we have defined worship and seen that God alone is to be worshipped. Over the next two week we will delve into more detail on the aspects of worship like the corporate Sunday morning worship and our lives being a living sacrifice and worship to God.
I am looking forward to our study of worship over the next two weeks but at this time we are going to share in the Lord’s Supper. This is a time for those who are Christians, those who have been immersed into the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ to enjoy a time of communion and fellowship. We are communing with one another as the body of Christ and we are communing with our great God and savior Jesus Christ.
This is a time of remembrance and a time of celebration. We are remembering the death of Christ which gives us life and forgiveness and a relationship with our God but also a time to proclaim the death of Christ until he comes. Each week we partake of the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine and each week we are proclaiming that Jesus died for sinners and that he is coming back again.
Let’s enjoy this time as we commune with God.