Episode 1. So What Exactly is Worship
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Worship means different things to different people. It’s a religious thing. It’s singing songs. It’s……who knows. But, well – what does worship mean to God?
Join Berni Dymet, on Christianityworks as he opens God’s Word to go straight to the heart of worship.
Now, worship means different things to different people. It’s a religious thing. It’s singing songs. It’s a concert with light show. It’s well, who knows what. But the question we need to ask ourselves, is what exactly does worship mean to God?
We All Worship Something
Well it’s great to be with you again this week and we are starting a new series on the programme that I’ve called, “Worship as a Way of Life”. When we hear the word “worship”, well, what does it mean? And people who don’t have any particular faith in God, it’s something, well, those religious people over there in churches or in temples do. Maybe it’s candles and incense or something that happens over there somewhere not something that I do. And for some Christians, well, that’s what we do on Sunday morning at church before the sermon, we sing songs – that’s our worship time.
I guess both of those would be true in part, but the notion of worship, from where God sits, is so much bigger and broader than that – not some religious ritual, not just some musical event. When we worship someone or something, we put it above all other things – we pay homage to it. In fact, it directs our lives – we’ll sacrifice other things, even though those things are very dear to us, for the sake of the person or the thing that we worship.
We all worship something – I mean, I used to worship money and success and recognition. It was the thing that my whole life was centred on and ordered around. I sacrificed my health, my family, my rest, everything for these things that I worshipped and actually, when you look back on it, I was really worshipping myself.
We can all look at our lives and ask, “what’s at the centre of the life? I mean, what’s right up there at the top? Who or what do I worship?” And we know the answer to that when we look at the sacrifices we make for that thing and ask ourselves, really and truly, who or what am I making these sacrifices for? What’s at the centre of my life – is it career, is it my family? I mean, honestly ask ourselves, “what is at the centre of my life?” Look at the sacrifices and that’s who or what we are actually worshipping.
Now we all have different elements to our lives. Obviously, we need to make some sacrifices sometimes. The whole thing of being a parent is sacrificing for our children. And sure, some times at work we have to make sacrifices. But if we get those out of balance – I mean, you see parents who self-actualise through their children; through their children’s dancing or through their children’s academic achievement and all of a sudden it’s completely out of balance. Some people sacrifice their whole lives to their jobs and lose their families – I know what that’s like.
And so there is a balance and there is a right way of sacrificing to different things but if we take just one thing and get it out of whack, day after day, month after month, we sacrifice and sacrifice and this one thing rises above all of those other things, then chances are that’s what we are worshipping.
The notion of sacrifice is an essential part of worship – it’s not new. The very first time that worship is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis, chapter 22 and verse 5. Abraham was promised by God a son and ultimately, after many, many years he had that son, Isaac, but Abraham had to go through a lot of trials and a lot of uncertainty over a quarter of a century before finally, in his old age, this son, Isaac, was born to him.
And so not surprisingly, when Isaac finally arrives, Abraham dotes on this kid – I mean, absolutely dotes on him – because here was the fulfilment of God’s promise. He never thought it would happen – he never thought he would have an heir, but God was faithful and God gave him his son, Isaac, with his wife Sarah.
But God saw that Abraham was starting to put Isaac before God, Himself and so He called on Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Can you imagine that – to take him and put him on an altar and put him to death? What an incredibly painful thing to do? And on that morning when they journeyed to where God had called them – out to that place – Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we’ll come back.”
Can you imagine the tussle that was going on in Abraham’s heart? Is God first in my life or is Isaac first in my life? Do I put Isaac before God? Is it God or my son? See we think we are worshipping God sometimes but when we look at our lives and ask some hard questions like ‘How do I spend all my time? How do I spend my money? How do I spend my energies? How to I spend my passions? Where are my dreams? Like Abraham we can get a real shock.
Let’s read on, the rest of the story – pick it up at Genesis, chapter 22 and verse 6. “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son, Isaac and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on, Isaac spoke up and said to his father, Abraham, “Father,” “Yes, my son,” Abraham replied, “The fire and the wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on.
When they reached the place that God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son, Isaac and laid him on the altar on the top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took his knife to slay his son. But an angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said, “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld from Me your son; your only son.”
What God was doing here was testing Abraham’s heart. Who do you worship, Abraham? Who do you put first in your life? And at the end of this, both God and Abraham knew the answer to that question. “Now that I see you fear God because you have not withheld from Me your son; your only son.”
Can I ask you quietly, yet deliberately – who or what do you worship? When it comes to the crunch, the one thing on this earth that is most important to you, would you be prepared to lay it down for the Lord your God? All your hopes and dreams and future and life and career – everything – is God exalted above all those other things in our lives?
Worshipping God is about adopting a “God above all” position in every part of our lives. Singing songs of worship is great but do we bow down our lives before God? Do we put God before anything or anyone else in our hearts? Do we worship God?
When you look at the Ten Commandments – look at the very first one in Exodus, chapter 20 verse 2, it says:
I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt; out of the land of slavery. You will have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them and worship them for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.
Now, would the first Commandment be about singing songs? No! The first Commandment is about who we put first – it’s about “whom” we worship. The question is do we worship God with our lives?
The Heart of Worship
The heart is an important place. One of the most common things that’s talked about through the Scriptures is the heart – in fact, it is mentioned five hundred and thirty four times. Several times Jesus made the point that who we are on the outside is a reflection of what’s going on in our hearts. In Matthew, chapter 12, He says,
For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.
And then again in Matthew, chapter 15, Jesus says, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart and these are the ones that make a man unclean, for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander – these are what make a man unclean.”
See for me, here is the biggest danger in thinking about worship. “Well, I go to church most Sundays, we sing songs, therefore I worship then I go home.” It’s kind of like saying, “well, I live in the same house and sleep in the same bed as my wife or husband. I peck them on the cheek in the morning before I go to work. Once a week I make sure I tell them ‘I love you’, therefore, I love them.” See how crazy that is? I mean, my wife isn’t interested in a ritual. She wants to know, does my husband love me with all his heart and do I see that reflected in the way he lives and acts toward me?
That’s why Jesus, when He was asked, “What’s the most important of all the commandments, answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” In other words, with what’s going on inside you and with what you do. This is the first and the greatest commandment.
Worship is something that comes from the heart – it’s an overflow of what’s happening inside us – it lives there first and foremost, and then it’s reflected on the outside in our lives. If we just “do” worship once a week, it’s a sham. I mean, I’ve been there, standing in church, singing songs, mind wandering off somewhere else – that’s not worship – that’s not what God is looking for any more that a quick peck on my wife’s cheek is really loving her.
Worship comes from the heart – King David knew that. Listen to what he writes in Psalm 24:
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it – the world and all who live in it because He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. Who may ascend to the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who doesn‘t lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
See, David is saying here – God created the heavens and the earth and He owns them all and if I want to ascend to the hill of the Lord, which meant, “go to the temple and worship Him”, I have to have clean hands and a pure heart. A heart and a life that declare, “I put Jesus first.” Look again at Psalm 27, where David writes:
One thing I ask of the Lord and this is what I seek – that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek Him in His temple. My heart says of You, ‘Seek His face’; Your face Lord I will seek.
See what’s going on here for David? Something is happening in his heart – there’s a desire; there’s a besottedness; an overwhelming urge just to be with God.
I was away recently, travelling with the ministry for almost two weeks. The ministry that God’s got me involved in is such a blessing and such a delight but each time I have to leave my wife, for me it’s an incredible sacrifice. You see, I love her; I want to be with her. When we go out together, more often than not, we are wandering down the street or through the shopping mall, hand in hand. There’s a closeness and a desire; we want to be together.
That in a sense is what’s going on in David’s heart for God. “God, I just want to be close to You. I want to dwell in Your house all the days of my life and gaze on Your beauty and seek You in Your temple. My heart says, ‘seek His face’, and Your face Lord I will seek.” There it is – there’s the heart of worship – a holy desire after God Himself – not His blessings, just God.
Now sometimes we feel like we have wandered off and we feel dry and we feel like we don’t have that desire. We all go there some days, so stick with me because later on in the programme we are going to pray for the Spirit of God to light that flame in our hearts – the heart of worship.
Choosing What is Better
We are talking today about making worship a way of life – not just some ritual – not just a few songs that we sing on Sunday. So far what we have seen is worship is about sacrifice and there are two parts to that – what happens in our hearts and how that’s reflected in our lives.
We are going to talk a whole bunch more about that next week; connecting our faith with our day to day life realities. But I just want to kind of introduce that today with a story of two women, Mary and Martha. If you’ve got a Bible, grab it and open it up at Luke, chapter 10, verse 38. This is what it says:
As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where there was a woman named Martha, who opened her home to Him. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations she had made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself – tell her to help me?” “Martha, Martha,” said the Lord, “You are worried and upset about many things but only one thing is needed – Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”
I don’t know what your life looks like, but mine truly has more things in it than I have time to get through. This ministry, Christianityworks, is not just about writing and recording radio programmes – it’s all sorts of things. It’s seeing radio stations; producing material to go with messages; administration; fund raising; managing people – lots of things. Not to mention home and family and church and friends and rest and relaxation. The danger for me, as with many other people, is you get so busy with the urgent things that we don’t have time for the important things.
And the important things that we tend to squeeze out of our schedule are relationships. Spending time with people; with family; with our wives and husbands (that’s why so many marriages fall apart)and spending time at the feet of Jesus (that’s why so many people end up drifting away from God). We delude ourselves – “well, I’m out there; I’m busy; I’m serving God. That’s what God wants from me – that’s the most important thing. If I don’t do all this the world is going to cave in.”
I’m not suggesting that we become spiritual couch-potatoes and do nothing. But have a listen to what happens here – Jesus comes to the house of Mary and Martha. Now Martha is rushing around cleaning and cooking, because they have a guest after all – the Son of God has come to visit. And her sister, Mary, is just sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening – her heart being moved and changed and strengthened and encouraged. She’s worshipping Him! Martha says, “that’s not fair – she should be helping me.” So what does Jesus answer? “Absolutely! Mary, get off your backside; stop being so lazy; go and help.” No! He says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is needed – Mary has chosen what is better and it won’t be taken away from her.”
Just one thing – a relationship with Jesus! Just one thing – listening to the Word of God! Just one thing – worshipping Jesus! Looking and listening and being overcome with the desire just to sit at His feet. That’s the heart of worship – it’s a heart to want to bow down and just be with Jesus.
The first Commandment of the Ten in Exodus, chapter 20 is about worshipping God before all other things or people or idols or anything else in our lives. When Jesus is asked, “what’s the most important thing?”
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind.
Are you dry? Are you saying, “I want to do that but I just can’t – I feel like God’s a million miles away? I hear what you are saying but I don’t have that desire in my heart.” If that’s you right now, we are going to pray. We are going to ask God in the name of Jesus, that He would change that. Come on – let’s pray together.
Father, You know each one of us – You know where we are – You know the things we go through – You know how we get distracted like Martha with all the cooking and the cleaning and the stuff we have to do in life. Father, forgive us for doing that and forgetting what it is just to sit quietly at Your feet, to listen and to look and to desire and to enjoy You. To have this desire like David, Lord, to just spend time in Your house the rest of our days enjoying Your beauty. Father, forgive us for getting so busy that we have forgotten to do that. And Lord You know that we can’t worship You in our own strength. We can’t somehow, conjure this up in our hearts. Father, we believe that worship is a gift from You.We believe, Father God, that when we came and accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, You put Your Spirit inside us, that You Yourself have come to dwell in us. Father, we have wandered in these lowlands; in these murky swamps for far too long. We ask that Your Spirit would spark the desire in our hearts. We ask that Your Spirit would give us a heart for worship. And Lord as you change our hearts by Your Spirit, we pray that that will be reflected in our lives. But first Lord, start with our hearts – change our hearts, O God, that we may truly be people of worship. Father, we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to go to church and to sing songs and to lift up praises and worship to God. It is one of the most wonderful things – to join together with the people of God in worship. But you know, if our hearts aren’t right; if our minds are wandering; if we truly haven’t established an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ, before we walk into that, how can we worship God?
This isn’t a guilt trip. I believe God is calling each one of us to come back to Him with a heart of worship and just the smallest bit of faith and just the smallest bit of desire is all that God needs to enliven our hearts and our spirits and our minds and our souls to worship Him. To God be all the glory for ever and ever. Amen.