Worship, what is it? Is it a style of music? Is it the fast or slow tempo of music? Is it something that only Christian’s do, or do others worship also? The word worship is a word that means something different to every person until we understand what God has intended it to mean. Worship is displayed many different ways and everything can be worshipped for good or for bad. Something that is good can become something bad if we place it in our lives in a way that we give ourselves to it. In this session I will work to explain what worship is, what idolatry is, how idolatry harms both individuals and societies and what is required in Church worship.
As I dove into the subject of worship in preparation for this session and this entire series, I was amazed at how limited my view of worship was. It is my goal and prayer that, as we cover this chapter, you will see worship in a much broader view then just a certain style of music. The Church has done a great injustice to the word “worship” by making it a slow song and “praise” a fast song. As we will see, there is much more at stake here than the style of music that we play or don’t play.
What Is Worship?
For us to rightly understand the word worship we must look briefly at the Doctrine of the Image of the Trinity and the Doctrine of the Image of God. We look at the Trinity to see what worship is in its purest form and then we move forward to see how we are created like God, or in the image of God. Within the Trinity there is a constant flow of worship and adoration that is being poured out on each Person within the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are continuous out-pourers. It’s not something They do as much as who They are. It’s not that They want to be continually out-pouring, it’s that They are continually out pouring. They are lavishing love upon One Another and then on others.
And, because you and I are made in the image of God, we also are made as continuous out-pourers. We are made to continually pour out the passion of our lives on God, but without the knowledge of God and even in the knowledge of God we can still end up pouring our lives onto things other than Christ. Worship isn’t what we do, but rather who we are. It’s not that we were created to worship, but we were created worshipping. These aren’t semantics, but important phrases. When we say that we are created to worship we are saying that we can turn our worship on and off. But when we say that we were created worshipping it means that we are worshipping all the time, day and night and night and day. We are always pouring out worship onto something.
Hebrews 13:15-17 says;
“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those that must give an account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
This is the most concise passage in the entire Bible on just what worship entails. We can see from this passage that worship is continuous or continual and it includes praise, proclamation, service to others in God’s name, participation by sharing, sacrifice of our time, talents and treasures and submission to the authorities that have been placed over us. Worship, as we can see, is far more than music but actually involves the whole of our lives, not just a part. What I will need you to do form this point on, is take off the set of glasses that you look through when you think of the word worship as music. And now put on a new set on glasses that view the word worship as the entirety of our lives. This will help us greatly as we move forward.
In light of now seeing worship as the whole of our lives and what we do all the time, we can ask ourselves 6 questions that help us determine where our worship is going.
1) How or what do you praise most passionately and frequently? What is it that you do most often, think about most often, and talk about most often?
2) How commonly do you confess Jesus Christ in what you speak, type and sing? This doesn’t mean how often you use His name but rather how often do you represent Christ with the words you speak, sing, type and think? What comes to you most commonly and frequently?
3) Do you serve others or would you rather be served? Are you looking for someone to do things for your, or are you looking to do things for others?
4) Are you active in the life of our Church with your time, talents and treasures? It drives me crazy when we have Christians that we ask to help with things they are good at and they have every excuse under the sun for why they can’t come and why they can’t help. Where do you invest your time, your money, and the talents that God has given you? It doesn’t mean that you have to live at the Church as your second home, but it does mean that you help your family out and play your part.
5) Who do you give your time, health, emotions and money to? People spend their emotional energy on so many things that don’t profit them at the end of the day. Where are your emotions being spent, on Christ and others, or your own drama filled life? You only have so much energy, so be careful what and who you spend it on.
6) Are you submissive to godly authority or do you rebel against the authority of parents, teachers, bosses and Pastors? How you respond to these different people that God has placed in your life will determine what your level of submission is. When people talk to you about your life, your job performance or sin, how do you respond? Do you freak out and get offended, or do you listen and try to fix whatever may be wrong?
Though this isn’t a comprehensive list, it helps us get our minds around the reality that we worship with far more than music, but actually our lives.
What Is Idolatry?
As we have defined worship, it is now easier to define what idolatry is. Simply said, the opposite of worship is idolatry. Our worship becomes idolatry when we give our lives to something or someone other than the God of the Bible. It’s important to understand that Christians aren’t made up of certain skin colors, geographic location, gender, or good and bad behavior, but rather who they worship as God. You are a Christian if you worship God.
While worship is a biblically faithful understanding and response to who God is; idolatry on the other hand is an unbiblical and unfaithful response to who God is. Paul tells us so clearly about idolatry in Romans chapter 1 when he, in great depth, discusses the reality that if we don’t worship God we end up worshipping ourselves and calling the shots for our own lives. The lie underneath idolatry tells us that we are god, we can become god, we’re apart of god and I can be my own savior and source for my life. This is what we call spiritualism or new ageism. New ageism seeks to erase God from the equation and replace Him with you.
Through new ageism and spiritualism we don’t see a creation and a Creator. We only see a creation and if there is a Creator, He is distant and disconnected. This is why new ageism and spiritualism apart from Christ seeks to do so much through meditation, trances, drugs, yoga like exercises and other self esteem and self improvement type things. The reason is that those things help you go inward and not outward as we are looking for God outside our life, not within our lives. There is something called twoism and it helps us clearly see this reality.
Twoism sees two separate circles that are not connected. One of those circles represents us and the other circle represents God. In order for circle one (us) to connect with circle two (God) circle one must leave themselves and go to circle two. Now this doesn’t mean that the Creator is totally separated from His creation, but it does mean that the Creator and the Creation aren’t the same. One is greater and one less than. The Creator is greater than the creation and for the creation to find its Creator, it must leave itself and lay hold of God.
Oneism, on the other hand, seeks to rewrite the equation with only one circle not two. With the one circle, oneism tells us that we are our own gods and we don’t need anything other than ourselves to find ourselves and to save ourselves. The new age movement fits so perfectly with those that are seeking to solve their own problems by becoming their own savoir and their own god. So instead of searching for God outside of yourself, you spend your energy going inward into yourself to see what’s there that can help you. At the end of the day, anything other than seeing a Creator and a creation means that you are not Christian.
While we see idolatry externally in our own lives and in the lives of others, it always manifest’s internally. It starts in the heart and makes its way out into our public life. Jesus told us in Matthew 6:19-21 that we should store up our treasures in heaven, because wherever our treasure is there our heart is also. This means that wherever we are storing up our money, our time and all of our energy is actually where our heart and worship is. This is why, in my opinion, there are so many Christians that struggle with loving God in worship and prayer.
It’s because they have set their hearts and their affections on things other than Christ. This makes it really difficult for us to chase the uncreated God when we close our eyes and we see a treasure other than Christ. It’s not in that moment that our problem is, but actually the way we have spent the strength of our life for many moments not just that one. Our worship of God becomes much easier when we set our affection on Christ and store up our treasure in the age to come, not in this age. Then, when we close our eyes, we can see Christ because our hearts have been set on Him and Him alone.
How Does Idolatry Harm Individuals And Societies?
There is an old saying that goes something like this “there is no such thing as Lone Ranger Christians, because even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.” At the end of the day, nobody is an island unto themselves. We are all connected to one another; even though we may not feel that way, we are. Idolatry is harmful for you as an individual but it’s also harmful for others. When I personally begin to live an idolatrous life I am harming myself and starting to walk down a road that will only get darker and more slippery with time. This is doing much damage to my life and heart as I am giving myself to the multiplicity of things that we give ourselves to.
Idolatry becomes a terrible task master for us personally when we give ourselves to things that don’t give back to us in the way that we are expecting. If you are a parent and your life becomes about your kids in an abnormal way, and your kids turn out in a way that’s different than you expected, it will haunt you for the rest of your life. If you make your pursuit of a career all that you do and in the end you don’t end up with the job you wanted, it will haunt you for rest of your life. But if you serve Jesus your whole life and screw up, He will forgive you and give you many more chances. Idolatry is harmful for us as individuals and if we don’t see that our lives are connected to others, we will end up harming people around us without even knowing what we are doing.
The way that idolatry harms others is because when we idolize we also demonize. What I mean by this is that when we make something an idol in our lives, we also work hard to protect that idol, to feed that idol and to defend that idol. When we do this, we are by nature demonizing anything that’s not our idol. Some simple examples are everyday things that we see and don’t think too much about, but when you start to pull the veil back, you can clearly see that this is very much true. Look at our political parties and how they go back and forth. If you idolize one party then you will demonize the other parties. You do this because you are protecting your idol and keeping it strong and in a defensive mode. If you idolize your race you will demonize the other races, which we have seen firsthand in the past 100 years in a terribly painful way. And if you idolize your gender you will demonize the other genders. Look at what happens in chauvinism and feminism. One party rises up and tares the other one down, only for the second party to rise up and tear the first one down. Neither wins. Not only is it bad for the individual, but also for society.
What Is Required In Church Worship?
It is clear now that God alone is to be worshipped. And when it comes to worshiping God, we worship God on His terms not on our own. This is a drum that the western Church must beat and make a clear sound when it comes to leading people into relationship with Jesus. You must be clear when you are leading others into a relationship with Jesus that you can’t do what you want and be in relationship with Him. Being in relationship with Jesus is about lots of new things, but it’s also about laying down our rights and taking up what Jesus defines Christianity as. Christian worship is about gathering for the purpose of adoration of Jesus and then we scatter for the purpose of sharing His life with those that live within our city and beyond.
When it comes to worshipping together in our gatherings, there are somethings that the Bible declares we should do and be doing. Here are five things that will help us define what that looks like.
1) Worship must be God centered. Because we are prone to worship ourselves it’s important that when we gather together we are there to worship God, sing songs about God, hear sermons about God, and have opportunities that we can respond to God.
2) Our worship should be understandable. This means that we are working to make what we’re doing understandable for those attending our gatherings. We do this by explaining what’s being said, what’s being sung and what’s taking place within the building during the gathering time. We want those that are among us, who may not know Christ, to understand what’s taking place.
3) Our worship should be seeker sensitive. God only tells us to preach the Word, but He doesn’t tell us how to do it. He leaves the outworking of preaching up to us, just as long as the Word of God is being preached rightly. This means that our entire service doesn’t have to be built for the non-believer, but there should be an attempt and an understanding that there are non-believers in our building that morning and as Christians who are passionate about reaching the lost we must host them well.
4) Our worship should be orderly. God is not looking for an impressive performance, but He is looking for us to have order. Order within our service does two things: first, it helps keep a good flow within our gathering time making sure there aren’t any dead spots, musicians are on key and the greeters are at the door. Second, it helps people to understand that God isn’t chaotic and He is a God of order.
5) Worship should be missional. The Church for too long has become a sub-culture within a larger culture and this is never what Jesus intended it to be. Jesus has always intended for His Church to be living among the culture and interfacing with it. The Church can’t withdraw from culture and live within its building if it plans on taking the message of Christ to the masses in our communities that have never met Jesus. We gather together and we scatter abroad to share Christ with others.
Worship transforms us. We totally become whatever we behold for the good and the bad. When we look at things other than Christ we become transformed into that image, whatever that image may be. When we look at Christ we also become transformed into His image. The former is negative and the latter is fantastic. To become like Christ is the aim of every Christian life and to come up short in large areas is to be following something other Christ. Examine what you’re looking at. Examine what you’re becoming and if you don’t like it, if you’re becoming something other than Christ-like, then make a decision to change it.