Category: What is true worship?


Worship can be defined as the act of honoring and loving a deity, idol or  person in a “selfless” manner. The act of worship involves the total self in  giving praise, thanksgiving and reverence to that deity, person or material  object. It is not a half-hearted affair, and it is only after we distinguish  between that which is and isn’t worship, with regards to the divine objective,  that we can begin to answer the above question more fully. True, biblical  worship, as defined by the scholar A. W. Pink (1886 – 1952) in his exposition of  the gospel of John, says this: “It is a redeemed heart, occupied with God,  expressing itself in adoration and thanksgiving.” Likewise, A. W. Tozer, once  regarded as a prophet of the 20th century, said, “True worship is to be so  personally and hopelessly in love with God, that the idea of a transfer of  affection never even remotely exists.”

So, the true worship of God is  distinguished by the following criteria: first, it comes from the redeemed heart  of a man or woman who has been justified before God by faith and who is trusting  in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness of sins. How can one worship the  God of heaven if his sin has not been dealt with? Never can that worship be  acceptable that proceeds from an unregenerate heart where Satan, self and the  world hold sway (2 Timothy  2:26; 1 John  2:15). Any worship, other than that from a “washed” heart, is vain.

Second, true worship of God comes from a heart that desires Him alone. This was  precisely where the Samaritan people erred; they sought to worship both God and  idols (2 Kings  17:28-41), and this is reaffirmed by the Lord Jesus Christ when He  discourses on the subject of true worship with the Samaritan woman who came to  fetch water from the well. “You Samaritans worship what you do not know” (John 4:22). These people  worshipped God “half-heartedly” because their total affection was not set on  God. It is possible for even true believers to fall into this second error. We  might not assent to having physical idols, like the Samaritans did, but what  absorbs our will, our time, our resources most of all? Is it careers, material  possessions, money, health, even our families? Let us cry out, like King David  in Psalm 63:5,  “My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips, my  mouth will praise you.” Nothing less than God should satisfy the heart of the  regenerate man, and his response to that divine satisfaction, comparable to the  best food ever, is the fruit of lips that sing God’s praise (Hebrews 13:15).

Third, true worship of God is the desire to continue to build up our knowledge  of God. How we have lost that desire in these days! Apart from the Bible, which  we should be reading daily, we need to supplement our knowledge by reading other  good books, too. We need to fill our minds constantly with the things of God;  God should always be on our mind, and everything we do should be done with  reference to Him (Colossians  3:17; 1  Corinthians 10:31). It is interesting that the Greek word for “worship” in  Romans 12:1 can also mean  “service.” So, our daily lives should also be considered as worship. Every day  we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. The  church is supposed to be “squeezing” the world into its own mold, the mold of  Jesus Christ, but too often it’s the other way around.

Let us purify our  hearts if we really want to worship the triune God in spirit and in truth. Our  God is holy; He is altogether “Other,” a God who cannot share us with other  objects of our affection. Indeed, a God who WILL not share us, for the sake of  His holiness. We were made to be worshipping creatures, but the Fall has  crippled and ruined us. Worship is the most natural thing for man, but until we  are restored to God through the sacrifice of His dear Son, then all our worship  is but a vain thing. It is as “strange fire” before the altar (Leviticus 10:1).

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The meaning of the New Testament Greek word most often translated “worship”  (proskuneo) is “to fall down before” or “bow down before.” Worship is a state  (an attitude) of spirit. Since it’s an internal, individual action, it  could/should be done most of the time (or all the time) in our lives, regardless  of place or situation (John 4:21).  Therefore, Christians worship all the time, seven days a week. When Christians  formally gather together in worship, still the emphasis should be on  individually worshiping the Lord. Even in a congregation, participants need to  be aware that they are worshiping God fully on an individual basis.

The  nature of Christian worship is from the inside out and has two equally important  parts. We must worship “in spirit and in truth” (John  4:23-24). Worshiping in the spirit has nothing to do with our physical  posture. It has to do with our innermost being and requires several things.  First, we must be born again. Without the Holy Spirit residing within us, we  cannot respond to God in worship because we do not know Him. “No one knows the  things of God except the Spirit of God” (1  Corinthians 2:11b). The Holy Spirit within us is the one who energizes  worship because He is in essence glorifying Himself, and all true worship  glorifies God.

Second, worshiping in spirit requires a mind centered on  God and renewed by Truth. Paul exhorts us to “present your bodies as a living  sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not  be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:1b, 2b). Only when our minds  are changed from being centered on worldly things to being centered on God can  we worship in spirit. Distractions of many kinds can flood our minds as we try  to praise and glorify God, hindering our true worship.

Third, we can  only worship in spirit by having a pure heart, open and repentant. When King  David’s heart was filled with guilt over his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11),  he found it impossible to worship. He felt that God was far from him, and he  “groaned all day long” feeling God’s hand heavy upon him (Psalm 32:3,4). But when  he confessed, fellowship with God was restored and worship and praise poured  forth from him. He understood that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a  broken and contrite heart” (Psalm  51:17). Praise and worship toward God cannot come from hearts filled with  unconfessed sin.

The second part of true worship is worship “in truth.”  All worship is a response to truth, and that which is truth is contained in the  Word of God. Jesus said to His Father, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17b). Psalm 119 says, “Thy law is truth” (v.  142b) and “Thy word is true” (v. 160a). To truly worship God, we must understand  who He is and what He has done, and the only place He has fully revealed Himself  is in the Bible. Worship is an expression of praise from the depths of our  hearts toward a God who is understood through His Word. If we do not have the  truth of the Bible, we do not know God and we cannot be truly  worshiping.

Since external actions are unimportant in Christian worship,  there is no rule regarding whether we should sit, stand, fall down, be quiet, or  sing praises loudly while in corporate worship. These things should be decided  based on the nature of the congregation. The most important thing is that we  worship God in spirit (in our hearts) and in truth (in our minds.)

The apostle Paul described true worship perfectly in Romans 12:1-2: “I urge you  therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and  holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your  mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and  acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.”

This passage contains all the  elements of true worship. First, there is the motivation to worship: “the  mercies of God.” God’s mercies are everything He has given us that we don’t  deserve: eternal love, eternal grace, the Holy Spirit, everlasting peace,  eternal joy, saving faith, comfort, strength, wisdom, hope, patience, kindness,  honor, glory, righteousness, security, eternal life, forgiveness,  reconciliation, justification, sanctification, freedom, intercession and much  more. The knowledge and understanding of these incredible gifts motivate us to  pour forth praise and thanksgiving—in other words, worship!

Also in the  passage is a description of the manner of our worship: “present your bodies a  living and holy sacrifice.” Presenting our bodies means giving to God all of  ourselves. The reference to our bodies here means all our human faculties, all  of our humanness—our hearts, minds, hands, thoughts, attitudes—are to be  presented to God. In other words, we are to give up control of these things and  turn them over to Him, just as a literal sacrifice was given totally to God on  the altar. But how? Again, the passage is clear: “by the renewing of your mind.”  We renew our minds daily by cleansing them of the world’s “wisdom” and replacing  it with true wisdom that comes from God. We worship Him with our renewed and  cleansed minds, not with our emotions. Emotions are wonderful things, but unless  they are shaped by a mind saturated in Truth, they can be destructive,  out-of-control forces. Where the mind goes, the will follows, and so do the  emotions. First  Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have “the mind of Christ,” not the emotions of  Christ.

There is only one way to renew our minds, and that is by the  Word of God. It is the truth, the knowledge of the Word of God, which is to say  the knowledge of the mercies of God, and we’re back where we began. To know the  truth, to believe the truth, to hold convictions about the truth, and to love  the truth will naturally result in true spiritual worship. It is conviction  followed by affection, affection that is a response to truth, not to any  external stimuli, including music. Music as such has nothing to do with worship.  Music can’t produce worship, although it certainly can produce emotion. Music is  not the origin of worship, but it can be the expression of it. Do not look to  music to induce your worship; look to music as simply an expression of that  which is induced by a heart that is rapt by the mercies of God, obedient to His  commands.

True worship is God-centered worship. People tend to get  caught up in where they should worship, what music they should sing in worship,  and how their worship looks to other people. Focusing on these things misses the  point. Jesus tells us that true worshipers will worship God in spirit and in  truth (John 4:24).  This means we worship from the heart and the way God has designed. Worship can  include praying, reading God’s Word with an open heart, singing, participating  in communion, and serving others. It is not limited to one act, but is done  properly when the heart and attitude of the person are in the right  place.

It’s also important to know that worship is reserved only for  God. Only He is worthy and not any of His servants (Revelation  19:10). We are not to worship saints, prophets, statues, angels, any false  gods, or Mary, the mother of Jesus. We also should not be worshiping for the  expectation of something in return, such as a miraculous healing. Worship is  done for God—because He deserves it—and for His pleasure alone. Worship can be  public praise to God (Psalm 22:2235:18) in a congregational  setting, where we can proclaim through prayer and praise our adoration and  thankfulness to Him and what He has done for us. True worship is felt inwardly  and then is expressed through our actions. “Worshiping” out of obligation is  displeasing to God and is completely in vain. He can see through all the  hypocrisy, and He hates it. He demonstrates this in Amos  5:21-24 as He talks about coming judgment. Another example is the story of  Cain and Abel, the first sons of Adam and Eve. They both brought gift offerings  to the Lord, but God was only pleased with Abel’s. Cain brought the gift out of  obligation; Abel brought his finest lambs from his flock. He brought out of  faith and admiration for God.

True worship is not confined to what we do  in church or open praise (although these things are both good, and we are told  in the Bible to do them). True worship is the acknowledgment of God and all His  power and glory in everything we do. The highest form of praise and worship is  obedience to Him and His Word. To do this, we must know God; we cannot be  ignorant of Him (Acts 17:23).  Worship is to glorify and exalt God—to show our loyalty and admiration to our  Father.