I’ve been reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan lately, and I came across a line that made me want to write about worship. This line is spoken by Faithful in response to an accusation that Mr. Envy brought upon him: “Therefore whatever is thrust into the worship of God, that is not agreeable to divine revelation, cannot be done but by a human faith, which faith will not be profitable to eternal life.”
Jesus lets us know in John 4:23-24 that true worshipers worship God in spirit and in truth. We should be worshiping God on His terms, not ours. If we’re using our own efforts to worship God and are not coming to Him by faith in Him and on His terms, then our worship is not acceptable – we are not actually worshiping! We see this at the very first with Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:1-7. We see it later on with the Israelites when God reprimands them for their attempts at worship in Isaiah 58 and Amos 5:21-24. We see Jesus commenting on and complaining about it in Matthew 15:8-9.
So what are God’s terms? First you must have faith in God. You must agree with God about who you are as a hopeless, helpless sinner, admit it, believe in what Jesus has done to remedy it, and confess it. If you don’t believe in God, then any attempts at worship are really just going to Him with empty offerings. You’re going through the motions. You can be as sincere as you want, but you’re not doing it correctly. Take a look at Hebrews 11:6.
The next part is completely connected to belief in God and isn’t really a separate part, since worship flows out as a response to God. Worship isn’t just singing praises and listening to a sermon on Sunday. It isn’t showing up to church twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday. True worship shows up in your daily life! It is in our full devotion to God! If we really believe what we say we believe about God, then we should be showing His love and helping others like He told us to! In James 1:27, Isaiah 58, and Hebrews 13:15-16, we see that God doesn’t just want us to acknowledge His greatness with our lips, He also wants us to acknowledge His greatness with our actions. Whether to or for someone, whether in front of others or when no one is looking, our actions will show whether or not we are truly worshiping.
True worship is a chosen response to God out of love. True worship is a chosen response to ascribe value to God as He is, not as we make Him to be.
In closing I’ll leave you with part of a quote from William Temple: “Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose…”