Christians today are talking about a renewed desire - even a new desire
- to worship the Lord in a deeper, more meaningful way. But what is
true worship? What is the absolute essence, the common denominator,
in all of worship? I believe it is seen in the lives of men like Abraham
and Job, who worshipped in the midst of the most life-shattering circumstances.
The fundamental essence of worship is this: Regardless
of negative circumstances or complete emotional turmoil, I bow
my heart and life before God Almighty, acknowledging His supreme lordship.
bottom line on worship is confessing God's lordship when everything
that surrounds your life screams, "God's unjust! He doesn't love
you! He has forsaken you!" At such a time, the true worshipper
says, "The Lord is God. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Perhaps this is what the Psalmist meant when he said, "Deep
calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls." (Ps.42:7). In
the context of that verse, the writer was speaking of deep emotional
turbulence in difficult times. When everything is crashing down on us
like a roaring waterfall, we must resort to the deep-down faith that
we have in God.
we feel overwhelmed and don't know why God has allowed a situation to
come into our lives, we must reaffirm our basic faith in God. "Though
He slay me, yet will I trust Him!" (Job 13:15 NKJV). This
is the deep within us - that expression from the depths of our souls
that affirms our trust in God regardless of the changing circumstances
of life. Worship is the deep within us calling out to the deep in God.
Sometimes this level of worship is best expressed in quietness. "Be
still, and know that I am God." (Ps. 46:10 NKJV). This verse
has nothing to do with praise, but it certainly applies to worship.
There are times when our worship will not constitute the forming of
words or phrases but will involve the humble prostration of our souls
before God, revering His greatness in silence and stillness.
Since worship is an expression of love, it frequently functions very
similarly to marital love. Love does not always need to be verbalized
in order to be expressed or appreciated. Sometimes more is said through
eye contact than could ever be expressed verbally. Worship involves
"eye contact" with God. Worship is staring at God!
Never Postpone Worship
When facing turbulent circumstances, we have a tendency
to complain now and postpone worship for later. But Jesus said, "Yet
a time...has now come, when the true worshippers will worship the Father..."
(John 4:23). Worship operates in the present tense. True worshippers
are not satisfied with waiting to praise God around the throne in heaven.
The fact that we may have worshipped in the past, or that glorious
worship awaits us in the future, is unsatisfactory. Now is
the time to enter true worship.
are those who have learned to acclaim you." (Ps. 89:15). Worship
must be learned. It is not a talent with which one is born, nor is it
a special gifting for a select few. Worship is the art of expressing
oneself to God, and we must learn that expression and open our hearts
as channels of the Holy Spirit.
Just as preaching is an art that is learned, our ability
to worship is developed through application and experience. Worship
is not learned by reading books, or by taking classes, or by going to
seminars. Like the art of prayer, worship is learned by doing it.
We should not be impatient with ourselves if we are not now able to
worship as we would desire. Learning the fullness of worship is a lengthy
process and does not come easily. The lessons God brings into our lives
to teach us worship can sometimes be as dramatic as those of Abraham,
Job, and David. Responding positively in worship rather than bemoaning
the trying circumstances will cause us to grow as worshippers. In many
churches we have been taught to work, and we have been taught to witness
- but we have not been taught to worship.
God Seeks Worshippers
We know from Jesus' own declaration that the Father seeks worshippers
(see John 4:23). God delights in the lifestyle of worshippers; nothing
pleases Him more than the quality of life displayed by a worshipper.
It is our duty; then, to endeavor to please Him by learning to become
increasingly Christ like in every way.
We want to be worshippers, but sometimes we do not fully understand
all that this involves. One of the most outstanding instances of worship
in the New Testament is seen in the story of the sinful woman who anointed
the feet of Jesus. Let us explore this account in Luke 7:36-50 to see
more dearly the qualities that characterize a worshipper:
Now one of the Pharisees
invited Jesus to have dinner' with him, so He went to the Pharisee's
house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful
life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house,
she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind Him
at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then
she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had
invited Him saw this, he said to himself, "If this
man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind
of woman she is - that she is a sinner'."
Jesus answered him, "Simon,
I have something to tell you."
"Tell me, Teacher',"
"Two men owed money
to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denari, and the
other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled
the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
Simon replied, "I suppose
the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged
correctly," Jesus said.
Then He turned toward the
woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your
house. You did not give Me any water for My feet, but she wet My feet
with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss,
but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My
feet. You did not put oil on My head, but she has poured perfume on
My feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - for
she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."
Then Jesus said to her,
"Your sins are forgiven."
The other guests began to
say among themselves, "who is this who even forgives sins?"
Jesus said to the woman,
"Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
When this woman came into Jesus' presence,
she was weeping. This was the outward manifestation of a heart that
was deeply stirred before her Lord. She was repentant, overcome, unreserved.
This was not a show. This woman's tears were sincere.
I will confess that, as a man, I find it very difficult to cry. Few
are the times when I come to tears before God. And that concerns me,
because I ask, "Lord, is my heart too hard before You? I want to
be soft and tender in Your presence!" The times of worship that
have been most meaningful to me are the times when I've cried before
God. Brokenness and tears are truly key elements in worship.
The True Meaning Of Worship
We see also that this woman kissed Jesus' feet. This
is a beautiful aspect of worship, for the Greek word for worship - proskuneo
- means "to kiss the hand toward; to do reverence or homage
by kissing the hand; to bow one's self in adoration." The derivation
of proskuneo is thought to come from the Greek word for "dog."
Thus the original meaning was "to kiss, like a dog licking his
When I first discovered this, I was somewhat repulsed by the idea. I
asked God, "Lord, am I like a dog before You? Is that all I mean
to You?" But then the Lord began to show me some beautiful lessons
through studying the origins of this word.
Although I have always been a dog lover, I had a dog for only a few
years while I was growing up. Among my fondest memories of "Buster"
are the times when we would come home from church and be greeted by
him at the door. From outside we could hear his tail thumping against
the wall and his paws scratching at the door. And when we stepped inside,
he was all over us! Jumping, licking, wagging, thumping, twirling -
you would have thought he hadn't seen us for weeks! As I remembered
those royal welcomes, the Lord whispered to my heart, "How excited
are you about being with Me again when you enter the house of the Lord?"
Then there's the time when your dog comes over to sit by your chair.
But he isn't satisfied with sitting next to his master; he has to plop
his body right on top of his master's feet. Dogs desire the closeness
of physical contact with their masters. Let's not be satisfied just
with being near the Lord; let us come close to His heart in worship
and lean upon His breast!
Fear Of Man Or Fear Of God?
worshippers cannot go unnoticed. They will attract attention to themselves.
For this very reason, many have refrained from entering into the fullness
of worship. They are afraid of what others might think of them. Peer
pressure affects worship. It has held back countless saints from the
blessing of opening their hearts to the Lord. Some folks might say,
"Oh, that's just Sister Brown doing her thing again." Others
might shake their heads and think, "Straaaange." But this
is part of the cost of being a true worshipper.
Obviously Mary was not following the conventional forms of worship -weeping,
kissing, and wiping His feet with her hair. There is no mention in the
Psalms of pouring perfume on our Lord's feet. David gave no guidelines
concerning these things. So we must consider how tolerant we are of
unique or "overboard" expressions of genuine worship. There
are no formulas for worship because worship is a function of the
heart, and the heart will find expression in a variety of external
David escorted the ark of the covenant to Zion, and while dressed in
a linen ephod and dancing before the Lord with all his might, he was
rebuked by his wife, Michal - "How the king of Israel has distinguished
himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants
as any vulgar fellow would." (2 Sam. 6:20) Because of
her criticism, Michal was barren for the rest of her life. Likewise,
if we become critical of genuine acts of worship, we are in danger of
In the church today, nothing is quite so controversial as worship. Entire
churches have been split over matters of worship and the proper way
to conduct it. But a choice is set before us: we can either choose to
please men, or we can decide to please God.. It rarely
seems possible to do both.
God's Loving Response
Mary was willing to endure the disapproval of others for the sake of
hearing her Master's "Well done." The disciples were surely
thinking, "Why doesn't Jesus do something? This woman is obviously
out of order! Why doesn't He rebuke her? Why is He letting this thing
drag on?" And when Jesus finally did give her His attention, the
disciples heaved a sigh of relief. "It's about time He took control
of this situation!" But rather than rebuking her Jesus commended
What a beautiful assurance this is that when we worship, He will respond!
He will turn to us! He will speak to us, for He is eager to do so. The
disciples had much head knowledge about worship; but it took a sinful
woman - someone who was uneducated in the many forms of worship - to
reveal the heart of a true worshipper to these disciples.
Spiritual maturity does not exempt one from being a worshipper. We will
never grow to the point where we are "above" worshipping
the Lord. In the Book of Revelation we read of the elders repeatedly
falling down in worship before the throne of God - "... and the twenty-four
elders fell down before the lamb, having each one a harp, and golden
bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they
sang a new song, saying 'Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break
its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy
blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation."'
(Rev. 5:8-9 NAS) In
truth, there should be a greater responsibility resting upon elders
and the spiritually mature to worship the Lord and to be examples
of worship to others.
The Cleansing Power Of Worship
The last words of Jesus to this woman - "Your
sins are forgiven" - contain a beautiful lesson. The woman
worshipped, and then she received forgiveness and cleansing.
The point here is that it is possible to approach God in worship, even
if there is sin in our lives, and become purified. But too often we
allow feelings of guilt to rob us of this blessing.
There was a time in my life when I was struggling with
a specific, recurring sin that I had difficulty conquering. And oh,
the guilt, when it was time to worship! I could not find a release in
my spirit because I felt like a failure before God. I withdrew from
God, supposing that He was not interested in fellowshipping with a sin-ridden
son. For years I allowed guilt and condemnation to rob me of the blessedness
of continual communion with my Father!
I had to learn that I must never allow sin to deter
me from intimate fellowship with God. God is never shocked by sin in
our lives. He never condemns us for sinning. And He never holds us at
arm's length when we do sin.
Conviction vs. Condemnation
God does convict, but He never condemns.
Conviction and condemnation are poles apart. Conviction leads to
repentance. Condemnation leads to despair
Conviction results in victory over sin. Condemnation results in abject
defeat. Conviction motivates us toward God. Condemnation leaves us deflated
and powerless. God convicts. We condemn.
Jesus said. "For
God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to
save the world through Him." (John 3:17). Jesus'
statement to the woman caught in adultery, after her accusers slipped
away one by one, was - "Neither do I condemn you. Go
now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:11).
Guilt and condemnation are among the greatest hindrances
in our worship services. And for too long we have heard the wrong solution.
We have been told "Repent before the Lord first, receive His cleansing,
and then come into worship. Don't come before God unless you've first
But God has never said that to us! That is a human
solution The Lord made His solution very real to my heart one day as
I was meditating on this passage in Luke 7. I was impressed with the
fact that not until after this sinful woman had worshipped the
Lord in such a beautiful and extravagant manner did Jesus declare her
sins to be forgiven. The progression was this: first she worshipped,
and then she was forgiven!
Jesus never says to us, "Wait a minute. There's
sin in your life! Don't try to get close to Me and love Me in that condition!"
On the contrary, He says, "Come close to Me; lean upon My breast,
and let us commune together. Then His promise comes: "And you will
be purified as you worship Me!"
We do not get purified in order to worship - we
worship and are consequently purified. The only time it is
inappropriate to worship God with sin in our lives is when we have no
intention of changing. To worship while purposefully maintaining a sinful
life, without any intentions of repentance and change, is hypocrisy.
But to worship despite any known sin, when we acknowledge it and desire
to receive God's strength to gain victory over it, is the first step
toward the solution.
Flee Into His Presence
I am not supporting a new brand of "cheap grace"
- God hates our sin! No sin can survive in God's presence. But this
is precisely why, when we need cleansing, we must flee into His presence.
There we receive healing, cleansing, holiness, and purity. This
was the message of Charles Wesley when he wrote:
Lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high!
Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound,
Make and keep me pure within.
Too often, in the throes of guilt and condemnation,
we have turned and hidden ourselves from our source of healing and forgiveness.
Condemnation has driven us away from the very Balm that would heal our
Condemnation will rob us of the blessed purification
that will come through worship. Condemnation is a whirlpool that will
siphon our spiritual vitality until we are consumed. The more we abstain
from worship, the greater the separation between us and God. It is our
blessed privilege as God's redeemed to draw near to Him in times
of sin and uncleanness and receive of the cleansing power that flows
from His presence.
The River Of Life
In worship, we partake of the very river that flows
from the throne of God. The Psalmist wrote of that river, "There
is a river whose streams make glad
the city of God" (Ps. 46:4). This is an allusion
to the water of Siloam whose several different courses ran underneath
and through Jerusalem and supplied the city with water. Similarly the
Holy Spirit provides us with renewing waters as we worship from our
innermost beings. Through our worship, the river of God washes over
our souls with cleansing and refreshment.
When Ezekiel was caught up in this divine river, the waters rose
from his ankles to his knees and then to his waist, until he could no
longer walk in the current. During this experience, Ezekiel was told,
it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers
go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because
these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will
live wherever the river goes. " (Ezek. 47:9 NKJV). As the
river of God begins to flow during our times of worship, it brings life,
abundance, and healing, washing over broken hearts and restoring parched