It was an unusual service last week. We played “The Price Is Right” right in the middle of the message and we had a quick round of “Balderdash” – but it was all to help us understand what it means to worship.
Worship is the fifth spiritual discipline that we’ve looked at since we began this series on Healthy Habits, but its a little bit different from the other spiritual disciplines in that, while most spiritual disciplines are specific activities that Christians do in order to help us grow in our understanding and in our faith in God, worship is not necessarily a particular activity. We can worship in almost everything we do.
We learned that while you might envision worship as singing or bowing down or bringing an offering or sacrifice, worship is really much more than all those kinds of activities.
To help us define worship, we looked at the old English word “Weorthscipe” – which is where we get our modern word “Worship.” And weorthscipe means to declare the value or the worth of something. It’s worth-ship.
So when we worship God, we can certainly declare God’s worth through singing for example – but really, we worship God (that is, we declare His worth through our actions) anytime we choose to honour and please Him above everything else. When knowing and pleasing God is more important to us than anything else, then we are worshiping God. And on the flip side of that, anytime anything else is more important to us than knowing and pleasing God – that becomes an idol to us and we worship that other thing rather than God.
So that, in a nutshell, was what we talked about last week. All of us worship something – the real question is “What do we worship? What do we value more than anything? Do we worship God or do we worship something else?” And I hope that’s a question that you’ve wrestled with over this past week.
Now this week, I want to build on our definition of worship. What we’ve looked at so far is what I’d call our “unintentional worship”. It’s not necessarily specific activities that we do, it’s more of an attitude. It’s simply what we value. Because like we said… What we value the most is what we worship. We don’t even have to put thought into it. If we worship money, for example, that just becomes evident in how we live our lives. We just automatically arrange our priorities so that money is given the greatest consideration in any circumstance.
It’s not like we go physically go and bow before our piggy banks or pray to our wallets. Not literally anyway… So that’s why I would classify this kind of worship as “unintentional worship”. We just kinda do it automatically.
But when it comes to worshipping God, in addition to our unintentional worship, there should also be an element of intentional worship as well. There are things that we intentionally do to express our worship. And the Bible is full of statements and commands and examples of intentional acts of worship.
Let me give you a few quick examples:Come, let us worship and bow down.
Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
7 for he is our God.
6 Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, “Amen! Amen!” as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah 8:6
Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song.
Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful.
2 O Israel, rejoice in your Maker.
O people of Jerusalem, exult in your King.
3 Praise his name with dancing,
accompanied by tambourine and harp.
8 Moses immediately threw himself to the ground and worshiped.
All of these examples sound like pretty intentional acts of worship. Kneeling, bowing, lifting up your hands, singing, dancing, playing musical instruments, throwing yourself to the ground… It all sounds pretty intentional. And these are, no doubt, where we get all those ideas about worship as being singing or bowing down or all those other things. So I hope you didn’t get the idea last week that those acts weren’t worship. They are. They are intentional acts of worship – but of course, it’s only worship if they are true expressions of how you actually value God above all else.
And in next week’s message, I’d like to get into a discussion of how these intentional acts of worship can be part of our spiritual disciplines – our healthy habits that help us know God and grow closer to Him, but for now, I want to look at another type of intentional worship.
While I was reading up on worship a few weeks ago, I was directed to a verse in Exodus that has since really shaped how I understand worship.
It’s Exodus chapter 3, verse 12, but I’ll start at verse 9 just so you can get the context… This is God talking to Moses from within the burning bush…. God said to Moses…
Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”
12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.” Exodus 3:9-12
Now this probably doesn’t stand out to you as a key passage on worship. It just says that God was going to bring Moses back here after rescuing the people from Egypt, and Moses would worship God at this very mountain.
But what’s interesting is the word “worship”.
I found that not all translations use the word “worship” in this verse. Sometimes, the translators use another word that they believe conveys the meaning more accurately.
Let me show you what the ESV translation says…
“When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” ESV
Isn’t that interesting? Apparently, the words worship and serve mean pretty much the same thing. They could be used interchangeably. Some translations use “worship” and some translations use “serve”.
I’ve been reading through the NET translation of the Bible recently and I like it because it comes with all kinds of notes that explain why the translators chose the words that they did. And this is what they said about this verse…
The [Hebrew word translated as “you will serve”] is one of the foremost words for worship in the Torah… The highest title anyone can have in the OT is “the servant of Yahweh.” The verb here could be rendered interpretively as “worship,” but it is better to keep it to the basic idea of serving because that emphasizes an important aspect of worship.
To worship God is to serve Him – and to serve God is to worship Him.
And as I thought about that, suddenly so many other passages about serving God took on whole new meaning for me.
I thought about that passage in the New Testament – Matthew 6:24 where Jesus says…
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24 NIV
And that totally makes sense in this context now. Jesus is saying that you can’t worship two different things – there can’t be two things that are both the most valuable to you. Only one thing can be the most valuable. When push comes to shove – you can’t have a tie. It’s going to be one or the other. You can’t serve – you can’t worship – two masters.
Another verse that I thought of as I was thinking about all this is Joshua 24:15. This is a verse that I learned as a kid – it’s a verse that many Christian homes have hung on their walls. It goes like this…
15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 NIV
That word serve is the exact same word from our Exodus passage. The idea of serving and the idea of worshipping are the same idea.
That’s why Joshua says to the Israelites – you’ve got to make a choice. You can’t serve two masters. Who are you going to serve? Who are you going to worship? Only one god can hold the highest worth in your life – so which god will you choose? I’m going to serve the Lord – which God will you serve?
And maybe we don’t usually think of serving as worship. But it totally is!
When I was in Bible school, I had a friend, Mark Koop, who was an amazing musician. He was one of those guys who could play any instrument – he just understood music. In fact, at Heather & I’s wedding, he played a song on the piano that He just made up on the spot. Just as He was playing he was making up! Just incredible talent.
And of course, as a skilled musician, he was always heavily involved in different ‘worship’ teams…. He wanted to have a career or ministry in music and so he took all the worship classes and things like that… And I remember once he told me his definition of worship. He said…
“Worship is when you’re doing what you were created to do.” ~ Mark Koop
And I’ve always remembered that. Worship is when you’re doing what you were created to do.
That means, If you were a shovel – then worship is when you’re digging up dirt. That would please and honour your Creator. You’re accomplishing what you were created to do. Shovels are made for digging dirt. You’re serving your creator exactly how he wanted you to serve him.
If you were a guitar – then worship is when when you’re making music. That’s what would please and honour your Creator. You’d doing what you were created to do.
If I made a guitar that didn’t make music, I wouldn’t be very pleased, would I? That guitar would be useless to me. But if this guitar I made turned out to make beautiful music, that would be very pleasing to me. That guitar would serve me well.
And that’s really the idea of worship.
We worship God when we serve him – when we do the things He created us to do. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10…
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10
God created us for a purpose. We’re his masterpiece. He created us anew when we put our faith in Jesus so that we can do the good things that he planned for us to do. And when we do those things, (whatever those things are) that’s worship. Paul further writes in Romans 12:1 & 2… He says…
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. “ Romans 12:1-2
Paul is saying that the proper way to worship God is to do the things that God created you to do. Give your bodies to God – let them be a living sacrifice – doing the things that God wants them to do. Don’t copy the behaviours of the world – be that new person that God created you to be and do God’s will. Do what God created you to do – which by the way is good and pleasing and perfect!
The bottom line is that we worship God by serving Him – and we serve God by knowing and doing God’s will – that is, by knowing and doing what God created us to.
But we can’t do that unless we have an on-going relationship with Him. I don’t know about you, but God has never laid out His entire will for my life all at once. My purpose in life isn’t as obvious as perhaps being a shovel or a guitar. I know that shovels are made to dig dirt and guitars are made to play music… But what’s a Dave Trenholm made for? What’s a Coleson Lamb made for? What’s a Jesse Faryna made for?
We are all unique creations – made in the image of God. Each of us has a unique and special purpose. God created you to do something that no one else in this world could do.
But you’ll never fully know that purpose unless you live in an on-going relationship with your Creator.
If you want to learn to know God’s will for you, then you’ve got to spend time with Him. You’ve got to let Him transform you into that new person by changing the way you think.
That usually involves reading His Word. That usually involves prayer. That usually involves all those other spiritual disciplines – those healthy habits that we’ve been talking about.
As we spend time with God – as we listen to what He has to say through His Word and through the prompts of the Holy Spirit, God reveals to us moment by moment what He wants us to do.
He usually doesn’t give us the big picture like “I want you to go spend 25 years as a missionary in the Congo, raise 7 boys, and then write a book about it” – He usually just gives us one step at time. I find God usually says things like…
– I want you do the dishes so your wife can sit on couch for minute.
– I want you to put a band-aid on your little girl’s scrapped knee
– I want you to ask that new kid at school to be your partner for this project
– I want you to go see if your neighbour needs help as he’s rotating his tires.
– I want you to tell your son how special he is to you.
It’s not usually the big, huge life changing events. It’s usually just the little stuff. And the more we do that little stuff, we more we begin to see what God created us to.
We start seeing patterns. We start seeing things that we’re really good at. We start seeing things that we really enjoy. We start seeing things that energize us and give us life.
Those are the things that God created us to do. Those are the things, that when we do them, we’re serving our God. We’re worshipping our Creator.
For me, maybe one of those things is being a good dad to my kids. I believe that’s something God created me to do – that’s one of my unique purposes. When I’m being a good dad to my four kids, I’m doing what God created me to do. I’m serving my Creator. I’m worshipping my Creator. And doing that brings me joy and life. It’s fulfilling and satisfying.
Doing the things that God created you to do is the most satisfying thing on earth.
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this or not – but serving other idols – like what we talked about last week – that never satisfies. Living in selfishness or chasing after pleasure or comfort or wealth, feeding your own ego, living for the approval of others… That never satisfies. Maybe there’s pleasure in certain moments, but there’s sure no lasting satisfaction. There’s no joy. No life.
If you want to experience true satisfaction, real joy, abundant life – then you’ve got to do the things that God created you to do. You’ve got to serve, you’ve got to worship your Creator.
So what does that look like for you?
Well, I don’t know if I can give you specifics – that’s probably between you and God on a moment by moment basis – but as I’ve mentioned, step #1 would certainly be that you’re spending time with God on an on-going basis so that you can learn to know His will for you. Reading your Bible, prayer, maybe fasting, being here with us on Sundays, going to ladies Bible, showing up for Justified, coming to youth group, talking about some of this stuff with a good Christian friend – all of those are great ways to help you hear from God.
Then step #2 would be simply to start doing the things that God’s given you to do.
And maybe the first thing for you is to change your babies diaper. If God’s given you that little one to take care of right now, then you go ahead and worship God by changing that diaper. If you’re doing what God wants you to do – then you’re serving him – you’re worshiping him.
Maybe you never thought of changing a diaper as worship – but if that’s what God’s given you to do – then that’s the most meaningful act of worship that you can offer to God. You’re changing diapers for the glory of God!
But that’s just it! You can spend your whole day, every day worshipping God, simply by doing the things that He’s asked you to do.
- Maybe that’s just going to work to provide for your family.
- Maybe that’s going to school to get your education.
- Maybe that’s studying all week to teach two guys about church history.
- Maybe that’s doing laundry or washing dishes or paying bills or changing the oil in your car.
Whatever it is – if you’re doing what God’s asked you to do, what He’s created you to do – that’s worship.
This Thursday at kids club I had a bit of a moment of discouragement. There were some kids that were super-high maintenance – I was trying to lead the games and share the Gospel, and these kids were just totally distracting and stealing everybody’s focus and attention – including my own. And I had the thought, why in the world are we even doing this? Is this kids club really going to change anybody’s life…?
But then I remembered what I had spent all week writing about in this message – and how if this is what God has asked me to do, then I’m doing the most important thing I can do right now. I’m worshiping God because I’m doing what God created me to do. And whether or not the kids club changes anybody’s life, well, that’s I guess that’s up to God… My job is just to be faithful and keep doing the things He’s asked me to do. To keep serving Him – To keep worshipping Him in everything I do.
I want to close today with a music video that has been running through my head all week. It’s a Steven Curtis Chapman song called “Do Everything”. And it really is this entire message in a four minute song – maybe I should have just played right at the start and saved us all a half hour – but anyway, here it is now.
It’s all about how everything we do can be acts of worship and can bring glory to God if we’re doing it for Him. I hope it encourages you this week.
Table of contents for Healthy Habits
- The Purpose of the Disciplines
- Observing & Contemplating God through His Creation
- The Purpose of the Bible
- Transformed by God’s Word
- Bible Reading Plans for Kids (or Adults!)
- Accurately Understanding the Bible
- The Purpose of Prayer
- A Lifestyle of Prayer
- The Invitation of Prayer
- An Introduction to Fasting
- Fasting with Eternity in Mind
- The Humbling Element of Fasting
- Defining Worship
- Changing Diapers for the Glory of God
- Worship in Song
- Silence & Solitude