True Worship In The New Testament

Featuring John Franklin Posted on August 19, 2008

One of the more dangerous things in life is to presume we correctly understand something, but discover, in fact, that we only do so partially.  I once saw a video of an alligator “expert” attempting the stunt of inserting his head in between the open jaws of the creature, whereupon the gator promptly snapped them shut on his skull.  Obviously the man’s supposed knowledge failed him that situation.  The result was disastrous. 

Likewise in our walk with God a spiritual understanding that may be correct in part could prove disastrous.  Nowhere is this more true than the average church member’s understanding of worship.  Most churches assume worship equals adoration; therefore we coin phrases like “praise and worship” music.  Unfortunately, assuming that the fundamental desire God has for us when we worship is to tell Him how much we admire, praise, or love Him could result in our churches perishing.

For example, Luke 19:37 records at the triumphal entry that the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice because of all the miracles they had seen Jesus perform.  A few minutes later Jesus began weeping over Jerusalem and prophesying that the judgment of God would now fall on their generation; that their enemies would destroy them and even their children within them as a result (vss. 41-44).  Think of it!  At the very moment the disciples were adoring God in a praise and worship service, if you will, Jesus was pronouncing judgment!  They were emotionally stirred about their Lord. They correctly identified the miracles were from God. They praised Him for them, yet in the very instance they were declaring the greatness of God’s acts.  Jesus was weeping and declaring the coming wrath of God.  What a contrast! 

Were they wrong in praising Him for all the miracles they had seen?  No.  It’s just that their partial understanding blinded them from a full understanding.  Could it likewise be true of a future generation that they might have some degree of understanding of worship, yet what they don’t know results in God destroying their generation?  I not only think it is possible, but it is happening in front of our very eyes.  Consider this:  In the last 50 years the church has grown more anemic and the culture more perverse during the midst of a praise and worship movement.  We have rejected the outdated style of traditional worship, yet the replacement style of contemporary worship has proved no more adequate.

Worship is not a style of music.  The phrases “worship wars,” “praise and worship music” “contemporary worship” or “traditional worship” show that our mentality defines it as such, even if we know better.  Referring to worship as a style of music probably stems from believing the basic nature of worship is adoration.  This is the partial understanding that will kill this generation if we don’t rediscover the true meaning of biblical worship. 

When the Bible mentions worship, often certain words appear in the verse with it.  The true picture of worship comes together by studying them. 

Read the following examples to identify what biblical worship involves.

Matthew 4:9  And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."

Matthew 4:10  Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” 

1 Samuel 1:3  This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh…

Psalms 66:4  All the earth shall worship You And sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name." Selah

Psalms 96:9  Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.

What do these five different meanings reveal about the true nature of worship?  As I wrote for LifeWay:
Worship is the expression of a relationship between unequals. Worship by definition cannot be between those of the same power, position, status, skill or ability. We only worship what is we perceive is greater than we are, whether the case be idol worship or the true God. I can praise my wife and praise God, but it’s not the same. Only God is ultimate. Only then does praise become worship. 

In the Bible the primary relational role pictured in worship is that of Master to servant (not Savior to saved, or Father to child). Not surprisingly, at its core worship inherently recognizes the authority of God over one’s life. The root concept of worship in both Hebrew (shachah) and Greek (proskeneo) is the idea of submission or bowing down. Those same words are sometimes translated worship or bowing down depending on the context. A worshipper willingly grants Him the rights to do whatever He pleases with one’s life or possessions. For example, in Genesis 22 Abraham went to worship (vs 5). God said he feared God (vs 12)
because when God asked he submitted to Him by offering in sacrifice the most precious thing he had. 

Worship, sacrifice, and serving are linked together. All reflect a recognition of authority.
Therefore, worship is fundamentally a lifestyle of service to God.  At times as we reflect on the greatness or goodness of God we will adore Him, but fundamentally worship involves a lifestyle of obedience.

Many “worship” God by praising Him on Sunday, then live like they jolly well please during the week.  Many thank God for His goodness, but do not seek to bend the entirety of the life to accomplish His plans and purposes.  Many think God exists to serve them instead of vice-versa.  Music style is merely a mode of praising God, and has very little to do with worship.  What we call contemporary or modern today will become outdated in the next generation – it always has throughout history.  I’m not opposed to the change in music, I’m opposed to living in a self-centered church who doesn’t have a disposition to submit in fear to the Living God, serving His purposes and sacrificing for them.  We’ve failed to communicate to people that salvation is not about what’s in it for them.  It’s about what’s in it for Him.  Should He not receive the reward for the suffering of His soul by us sacrificing our lives for Him?  Even as He first sacrificed His for us?

This is what’s killing our Laodicean church in America.  God help us to wake up and return to Him!

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