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Defining Worship

How many of you have ever played the game “Balderdash”? Its a simple game where the basic idea is that you get a word – a real word – but its a word that is so uncommon that no body really knows what it means. Maybe it’s a medical term or some old English word that’s gone out of use. But the idea is that everyone tries to come up with a plausible definition of that word. Then you read out all the definitions and everyone votes for the definition that they believe is the real one.

Well, we’re going to play that game today. Sort of. I’m going to give you a word and I want you to see if you can come up with a definition. It’s not actually a competition – just a fun little exercise to get your minds in gear this morning. Here is the word… Weorthscipe. Any guesses what that word means?

“Weorthscipe” is an old English word which really means to declare the worth of something. If you break it into two parts, you can start to see our modern english words hidden within the old….

The first part “Weorth” – means value or worth. You can see that – just drop the ‘e’ and the is the modern word “worth”. That’s pretty straight forward….

The second part is “scipe” and that means which means the condition of. We see this bit in modern english quite often today, although we spell it now SHIP.  It still means, the condition of… We add it to the end of word… as in friendship – the condition of being friends. Or leadership – the condition of being a leader.

Weorthscipe is the condition of having worth. 

That word is important to us today because it’s from this word “weorthscipe” that we get the modern idea of “worth-ship” or “worship” – and worship, of course, is absolutely central to everything we do as Christians…

As most of you know, through most of 2017 so far, we’ve been working our way through this series called Healthy Habits – A Guide to the Spiritual Disciplines. And basically, we’ve been talking through the practices of Christians that help us draw closer to God – they help us know Him more and they strengthen our faith in Him.

Worship is the next spiritual discipline that we want to look at. And I wanted to start with this old word – weorthscipe – because it really helps us understand exactly what we’re talking about when we’re talking about worship.

Because I think for a lot of us, when we hear the word worship, we often get incorrect or at least incomplete ideas of what worship is.

For a lot of us, perhaps based on what Hollywood has shown us, worship is bowing down before some person or idol. We envision these tribal or ancient people gathering around this big stone statue – all bowing low before it with their faces to the ground. Maybe we envision them chanting something or performing some strange ritual. Perhaps we even see them offering some kind of sacrifice to this god made of stone – in hopes that their god will accept their worship and bless their crops and their families.

And that’s not entirely foreign to what we see in the Bible – particularly in the Old Testament. In the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – we see the King commanding them to bow down before his giant golden statue of himself. In the story of Elisha, we see the prophets of Baal dancing around their sacrifice to their god – shouting and cutting themselves with knives and swords in hopes that their god would notice them. Even the Israelites – when they first came out of Egypt, molded a golden calf and made sacrifices and offerings to it.

But of course, that was thousands of years ago. That type of worship is completely foreign to us today – especially in our western culture. I mean, in places like India, they still have stone or wooden idols that they pray to or make offerings to – but for most of us here today – that kind of worship is totally foreign.

In fact, for us today, our image of worship – in Christian circles anyway – typically involves a certain type of music.

In our churches we might have a worship leader that leads us in singing. Sometimes we have a worship team that might get together for a worship practice as they go through their songs. If you go to the Christian bookstore, they have a whole genre of music classified as ‘worship music’. In fact, this very event that you’ve come to this morning is often referred to as a worship service. So it’s pretty easy to see why Christians today might equate worship with singing a certain type of songs.

But is that really worship? What does it really mean to worship God?

If I were to ask you “Did you worship God this week?” – What sort of things would you look for as you reviewed the activities of your week in your mind? Would you look for singing? Would you look for acts of bowing down or bring an offering or making a sacrifice? What would you look for?

What does it mean to worship God?

And this is an important question to wrestle with because for the Christian, worshiping God is not an optional activity. It is commanded throughout the Bible. Let me give you a quick example. This is from when Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness. Matthew 4:8….

8 Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

Matthew 4:8-10

It seems like a pretty clear command. “You must worship the Lord your God.” It’s not optional. It’s a command. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that you cannot be a Christian – you cannot be a follower of Jesus Christ – if you do not worship God.

So what does that look like for us? Is it dancing and shouting? Is it singing certain songs? Is it bringing offerings and sacrifices? What does it look like for us to worship God today?

Brian’s been going through the book of John in Sunday School and we recently read from John 4:23 which says…

23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

So how does that fit into our understand of what worship is? God is looking for true worshippers – those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. What does that mean? That’s doesn’t really sound like singing songs or bowing down before some statue. If we are true worshippers of God – and I think we want to be – what does that look like for us?

Well, that’s what we’re going to look at for the next couple of weeks. Defining worship is a pretty challenging task and I don’t think we can fully answer it in a 20 minute sermon, but I think a good starting point is with that old English word for worship – weorthscipe – or literally worth-ship… which means to declare the worth of something.

It’s kinda like those price-is-right games. Do you guys remember those? Does anyone still watch that anymore? Many of their games involve arranging certain grocery items in order from the least to most expensive.

And that basically is weorthscipe. You  declare the worth or the value of those things. 

And we do that all the time in life. Not arranging our groceries according to price – but we arrange our priorities and we make decisions based on how much we value different things.

For example, everyday you go to work, you are declaring the value of your wages. By your actions, you show that you value your wages over your time. Now if you had a billion dollars, you probably wouldn’t go to work because suddenly those wages wouldn’t seem very valuable to you. Or If you believed that this was last day on earth for whatever reason, you would wouldn’t spend that day at work because you would value your time over those wages.

But for most of us, most of the time, we value our wages over our time. Or more to the point, we value the food our wages can buy and the house it pays for and all those other things that come with it… So because we value those things over the 8 or 10 hours a day we give up to go to work, we weorthscipe our wages – we declare their value by choosing to go to work rather than spending our time doing other things.

We do this sort of thing every moment of every day. We are constantly evaluating the worth and value of things and then acting accordingly.

We choose to eat that chocolate bar because we value the pleasure of that chocolatey goodness over having a healthy body… Or visa-versa… We choose not to eat that chocolate bar because we value having a healthy body over enjoying the pleasure of chocolatey goodness. We are constantly evaluating the worth and value of things. And by our choices and actions, we make a declaration of those evaluations. That’s weorthscipe.

Every decision we make is a reflection of what we value, what we think is important, what we think has the greatest worth.

And ultimately, whatever it is that we believe is of the highest value, is the most important, and has the highest worth – that is what we worship. It not that we necessarily make a conscious decision to worship it – just by default, by definition, as that thing that we value the most, that is what we worship.

It’s like what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21…

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 NIV

Whatever it is that we hold most dearly, whatever it is that we choose above all else – that’s what we treasure – that’s what we worship.

I ran across a short video this week that talked about worship and how we know what it is that we truly worship – and I just want to read a short snippet from that video…

“All of us are made to worship. We can’t help it. It’s in our wiring. There are things in life that we value… We give our time, our thoughts, our praise, our attention, our money – because we care deeply about them. You can even say we love these things. And what we love, we worship.

I’ve got a question for you. And be honest. What do you love? Is it comfort? The opposite sex? Money? Status? Your job? The fact that people know and are impressed by you? It is your family? Yourself?

Of course, we might not physically bow down to these loves, but if our love for them becomes greater than our love for God, we internally worship them.” ~

And I thought that was pretty accurate. And pretty pointed. What we love, we worship.

So what do you love? What do you worship? As you make choices every day based on how you value different things – which sort of things typically win out at the end? What holds the greatest sway as you make your decisions?

Here’s some questions that you can ask to help you answer that question: First of all, to what do you give your time? Time is one of your most precious commodities – who or what gets it? That question alone gives you a big clue to who or what you love – who or what you worship. Where do you invest your time?

Or how about your thoughts? If you could divide your thoughts into categories in a pie chart – what category would be the biggest? Who or what gets the majority of your thoughts? Who or what captures your attention more than anything else? That’s what you worship.

Who or what do you talk about most? Who or what do you spend your money on? Who or what do you read about, write about, watch youtube videos about? These are all clues as to who or what you worship.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart, and your eyes, and your ears, and your mind, and your thoughts, and your money, and your time… all of those things…. there they will be also.”

So what do you love? What do you worship?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37 that the greatest commandment in all the Scriptures is to love the Lord our God.

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

Matthew 22:37-38

This is our single most important thing we can do in life. To love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. And that’s another way of saying that the most important thing we can do is to worship God.

  • He is the one that gets priority in every decision.
  • He is the one who gets the greatest portion of our time.
  • He is the one who gets the greatest portion of our thoughts.
  • He is the one who captures our attention more than anything else.
  • He is the one we talk most about.
  • He is the one we read most about.
  • He is the one we watch the most youtube videos about….

To worship God means that when we arrange the important things in our life – God is always at the top of the list. It means in every decision we make, knowing and pleasing God is always our greatest consideration. It carries the most weight because God is the most important thing to you.

That means when we are deciding to eat that chocolate bar or not, pleasure is not our greatest consideration nor is our health our greatest consideration. Our greatest consideration is knowing and pleasing God. (I’m not sure how that will impact your decision to eat that chocolate bar or not – but that’s your greatest consideration….)

  • When you decide how to spend your money – knowing and pleasing God is your greatest consideration.
  • When you decide what to watch on tv – knowing and pleasing God is your greatest consideration.
  • When you’re thinking about dating or marriage – knowing and pleasing God is your greatest consideration.
  • When you decide what to do in the next big chapter of your life – knowing and pleasing God is your greatest consideration.

That’s what it means to worship God.

We don’t have to sing any particular songs. We don’t have to physically bow down. We don’t have to bring any offerings or sacrifices. We can do those things, but they only have meaning if they are outward reflections of what’s already going on inside.

Singing those songs that declare God’s worth on Sunday…. that’s only valuable if we actually believe it and live like it during the rest of the week.

So the question I want to leave you with today is: Who or what do you worship? Not just on Sundays…. Who or what do you worship throughout the week…

…when you’re at work…

…when you’re at school…

…when you’re at home alone….

Look at the decisions you’re making and see who or what it is that you truly worship. What’s most important to you? What do you love? Your actions will reveal the truth.

But I’ll warn you… You may not like what you find. I know I didn’t… You may find that you’ve been worshiping idols. Probably not statues of stone or wood… But anything that you hold as more valuable than knowing and pleasing God is an idol.

Probably the biggest idols today are pleasure and comfort. For a lot of people – that’s the bottom line. Their greatest consideration is their comfort. Does this make me comfortable? – do it. Does this make me uncomfortable? – don’t do it. Comfort is their greatest consideration. Maybe that’s you.

Or maybe you’ve got other idols. We listed several possible idols earlier… The opposite sex? Money? Status? Your job? The fact that people know and are impressed by you? Your family? Yourself? There are so many things that can become idols to us. So many things that we can love or worship more than God.

But the fact is that only God is worthy of our worship. He is the Creator of all things. He is the all-powerful, all-knowing God, and He loves each one of us more than we can even imagine.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV

That’s how much God loves us. And a God who is willing to die for me – that kind of God is worthy of my worship.

I want to close today simply by reading a few passage of Scripture that remind us that God alone is worth of our worship. I realize that most of what I’ve said today is nothing new for many of us, but I think it’s important to be reminded of it. We’re so quick allow other things to steal our attention and steal our affection and steal our worship. Sometime we just need a reminder that God, and God alone, is worthy of our worship. So let’s read these passages together…

23 Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!

    Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.

24 Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.

    Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

25 Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!

    He is to be feared above all gods.

26 The gods of other nations are mere idols,

    but the Lord made the heavens!

27 Honor and majesty surround him;

    strength and joy fill his dwelling.

28 O nations of the world, recognize the Lord,

    recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.

29 Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!

    Bring your offering and come into his presence.

1 Chronicles 16:23-29

1 Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Worship the Lord with gladness.

    Come before him, singing with joy.

3 Acknowledge that the Lord is God!

    He made us, and we are his.

    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

    go into his courts with praise.

    Give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the Lord is good.

    His unfailing love continues forever,

    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Psalm 100:1-5

6 Lord, there is no one like you!

    For you are great, and your name is full of power.

7 Who would not fear you, O King of nations?

    That title belongs to you alone!

Among all the wise people of the earth

    and in all the kingdoms of the world,

    there is no one like you.

12 The Lord made the earth by his power,

    and he preserves it by his wisdom.

With his own understanding

    he stretched out the heavens.

13 When he speaks in the thunder,

    the heavens roar with rain.

He causes the clouds to rise over the earth.

    He sends the lightning with the rain

    and releases the wind from his storehouses.

14 The whole human race is foolish and has no knowledge!

    The craftsmen are disgraced by the idols they make,

for their carefully shaped works are a fraud.

    These idols have no breath or power.

15 Idols are worthless; they are ridiculous lies!

    On the day of reckoning they will all be destroyed.

16 But the God of Israel is no idol!

    He is the Creator of everything that exists,

including Israel, his own special possession.

    The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!

Jeremiah 10:6-7, 12-16

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—

    the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Revelation 4:9

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Revelation 5:12, 13

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