Worship is an essential part of our relationship with God. In fact, we are created, chosen, called, and commanded to worship God. Perhaps you are familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism. In it, the writers ask, “What is the chief end of man?” And they answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” In other words, humanity was created for the purpose of worshipping God.
Throughout the Scriptures, we are told to worship the Almighty God. One of the best passages calling us to worship is Psalm 149:1-6:
- Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones. Let Israel be glad in his Maker; Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King. Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre. For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation. Let the godly ones exult in glory; Let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand…
There is no doubt: God is seeking worshippers! Therefore, the subject of worship is an extremely important pursuit for believers.
As we begin to wrap our hearts and minds around the big topic of worship, a few definitions might help. D.A. Carson, who is a leading evangelical theologian, gives this definition:
Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so. This side of the Fall, human worship of God properly responds to the redemptive provisions that God has graciously made. While all true worship is God-centered, Christian worship is no less Christ-centered. Empowered by the Spirit and in line with the stipulations of the new covenant, it manifests itself in all our living, finding its impulses in the gospel, which restores our relationship with our Redeemer-God and therefore also with our fellow image-bearers, our co-worshipers.
That definition, of course, is a mouthful, but one of the most helpful aspects of it is that it points out to us that worship is complex. Worship is not one-dimensional or bland. It’s multifaceted and full of life. Even if you’ve been a Christian for 80 years, you still have not exhausted your discovery of what worship is.
Now, Carson is not the only person to give us a definition of worship. Ralph Martin has put forth a definition that I really like. His definition is deep but at the same time concise or straight to the point. Here’s what Martin says:
Christian worship is the adoration and service to God the Father through the mediation of the Son and prompted by the Holy Spirit.
Notice how Martin’s definition makes a difference between common worship and Christian worship. You know this to be true: A person can worship many things. In fact, as human beings, we cannot help but worship. So, the question is not: will we worship? The question is: what will we worship? Martin is saying that for the Christian, this is what worship should look like. Second, he points out to us that worship has two aspects: adoration and service. It’s more than an hour service on Sunday morning. It’s life. Adoration and service has not time or location limits. Finally, he puts worship into a Trinitarian perspective. It’s to the Father through Son by the power of the Holy Spirit
Let me try my hand at a definition:
Christian worship is the act of reflecting back to God how valuable and delightful He is to you.
So worship is a response to God’s significance, beauty, and glory
Worship, whether we’ve thought about it this way before or not, has a broad and a narrow scope. In the broad scope, worship includes every second of your life. The way in which you drink sweet tea is a moment of worship. The way in which you brush your hair is a moment of worship. The way you lay down to rest is a moment of worship to God. In the narrow scope, worship is the time set aside as an individual or a congregation to honor God through singing, prayer, thanksgiving, and preaching. In both the broad and the narrow sense, we have a God who is totally worthy of our worship and praise.
Over the next several articles, I will put forth and explain some essentials to biblical Christian worship. May you be helped to rightly revel in the Righteous One!