Everybody worships. Not everyone believes in God, or in gods, or in the God of the Bible, but everyone worships. Everybody ascribes worth to something, which is one of the basic definitions of worship.
My favorite book about worship, outside the Bible, is Warren Wiersbe’s Real Worship: Playground, Battleground, or Holy Ground?. Wiersbe offers this concise definition of worship…
Worship is the believer’s response of all that they are—mind, emotions, will, and body—to what God is and says and does. This response has its mystical side in subjective experience and its practical side in objective obedience to God’s revealed will. Worship is a loving response that’s balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better.
As my favorite Worship Pastor on the planet likes to say, “worship is both revelation and response.” It’s tuning in to listen to a holy God, and it’s responding to what I hear and see. Genuine worship results in a net increase in my personal awe of God and ultimately changes my life in a way that is contagious. It makes me craveable, as Artie Davis might say.
Jesus once had an argument with a woman about worship. It’s recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter four, but the short version is that when Jesus got personal with her, she brought up an argument about the “right way” to worship as a diversion. Funny how the subject of worship often becomes the source of conflict when we’re trying to avoid the real issues of the heart. This woman’s understanding of worship was pretty normal.
- Worship is confined to a time a place (hence, a “worship service”).
- Worship is defined by our rituals and traditions.
- Worship is the sum total of the goodness I offer up to God.
- Worship is about receiving or “getting a lot out of” an experience.
Jesus challenged all of her assumptions – not with answers rooted in Jewish tradition, but answers rooted in the eternal fellowship He had enjoyed thus far with the Father. Out of that experience, Jesus revealed a different and better way to approach the subject of worship.
- Worship should be an everywhere, all-the-time activity.
- Worship happens in truth (the “real” world), but also in spirit (the “unseen” world).
- Worship is the response of sinful creatures to a holy God.
- Worship is about giving or offering up, which is far more blessed than receiving anyway.
When we fight about worship, we’re usually fighting like the woman in the argument. We’re fighting about when, where, and how. We’re arguing about externals, traditions, and preferences. When we fight for worship, we’re fighting with the heart of Jesus, who sought to establish a connection between broken humanity and a healing Creator.
John Piper is credited with saying that “missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Right now, on planet earth, there are literally billions of people who are worshipping the creature more than the Creator (see Romans 1). They don’t know the One who showed up at the well that day, and we who do know Him are responsible. The woman at the well that day, out of the overflow of her worshipful spirit, brought an entire town to meet Jesus. Once she “got it,” she fought for worship. I want to fight for it too. He’s worth it.