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).