What the Bible Says About Worship
Worship is prizing God our Father, Jesus our Savior, and our Holy Spirit.
We most truly worship God when we prize Him as the sole object of our heart's desire. Right after Philippians 3:3, where Paul said worship is by the Spirit of God, he expresses the pinnacle of his relationship with Jesus. He so treasures Christ that all else is loss, compared with the gain of having Him. John Piper's theme is "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." David said to God, "Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you (Ps 63:3). Worship is non-negotiable, in the light that everything comes from Him (2 Cor 4:7, 2 Cor 3:5, 1 Chron 29:5,10-13,16,20).
Worship assumes Lordship.
Worship says not only "He is Lord," but "You are my Lord." Romans 12:1 urges us "in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship." Not being conformed to this world, but being transformed to the character of Jesus is good, pleasing, and perfect worship with our lives that delights God.
Worship assumes a kingdom of which He is King of kings.
The King of the ages is due homage and reverence. Through all eternity, we will be saying, "Great and marvelous are Your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are Your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear You, O Lord, and bring glory to Your name?" (Rev 15:3-4).
Worship is whole-hearted obedience.
Worship is simple obedience to the first commandment. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30). More than anything, God wants us to love Him. Worship is freely loving God to the point of giving Him our submitted hearts and wills in every area. Obedience should come out of worship.
Worship is spontaneous.
Worship can't help overflowing from a passionate heart. Real worship is grounded in truth but involves deeply felt emotion. Intense longing for the nearness of God will express itself irrepressibly in worship. "Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!" (Ps 65:4).
Worship is for God Himself, not the means to something else.
True worship culminates in God Himself. The "praise service" is not the warm-up for the preaching. A. W. Tozer called worship the missing jewel of the church. Dr. Ronald Allen said, "The situation seems not to have changed appreciably since these words were first stated by A. W. Tozer." The jewel may still be missing, but now many people know it and want to find it.
Worship is a matter of covenant-keeping.
All who hold fast His covenant will worship (Is 56:6-7), and worshiping other gods is covenant-breaking, for which God brings judgment (2 Kings 17:38, 2 Chron 7:22, 24:18). God repeatedly warned His people against the idolatry of worshiping other gods (Exo. 20:5, Josh 24:14, Acts 17:23). Jesus received worship on many occasions (Mat 28:9,16-17, Luke 24:52, John 9:38). He said, "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only" (Mat 4:10).
Worship is a priestly function.
The Levitical priests came before God to minister in His presence (Deut 10:8, Lev 44:15). We are a kingdom of priests, who draw near God to worship Him (Exo 19:6, Rev 1:6).
Worship is a lifestyle, not an event.
The psalmist understood the lifelong commitment to seek God. "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek (Ps 27:4,8).
Worship is not limited to a certain day or place.
Jesus in John 4 struck down the idea that worship depends on a place. But something corporate happens, bigger than the individual parts, when God's people gather to harmonize their worship from the overflow of their individual worshiping lives.
Worship puts things in their place, even answers to prayer.
In worship, we get God's perspective. Our lives should be God-centered, not man-centered, problem-centered, need-centered, or comfort-centered. David cried out, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory" (Ps 63:1-2).
Worship must not be institutionalized or ritualized.
Colossians 2:16-17 takes the emphasis off times and forms. Worship is inner spiritual reality. It cannot be processed, standardized, prepackaged, sanitized, or printed in a "worship folder." When we engage in the outward forms of worship with our heart far from God, the Bible calls this vain (Is 1:11-15, Col 2:23). It is lip-service without full devotion, empty confession without a committed heart (Matt 15:9, Is 29:13, Amos 5:21-24). God specifically told His people not to worship Him in the vanity of the heathen (Deut 12:4,31, 2 Kings 17:32-33,41).
Worship is an action verb.
Some experiences of the heart in worship may not be expressed outwardly, but the Hebrew words for worship are active. The Biblical body language of worship includes standing, bowing, falling down before God, lifting hands, shouting, clapping hands, singing, processions, festive throngs, new songs, kneeling, dancing, trumpets, tambourines, and other musical instruments. Other worship words are glorify, exalt, exult, magnify, and bless. The Biblical worship vocabulary indicates that we don't worship passively and unintentionally. Isaiah and the apostle John fell down before God in worship.
Worship prepares the way of the Lord.
Worship in the tabernacle and the temple pictured the coming of the Savior. The psalmist said, "He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God" (Ps 50:23). Our worship looks forward to His summing up all things to Himself in all eternity.
Worship is an instrument of victory in spiritual warfare.
Worship has spiritual power to win victories. In Joshua 5:14-15 and 6:2, Joshua bowed to worship the Captain of the Lord's hosts, and God supernaturally brought down Jericho after Joshua's worship. In Judges 7:15, Gideon bowed in worship, returned to his camp, and commanded, "Arise, for the Lord has given the enemy into our hands." The Israelites again used worship as God's appointed weapon for winning a three-fold victory in 2 Chronicles 20:22. They had not even reached the battlefront when God acted to completely destroy three enemy armies.
Worship has implications for evangelism.
Jesus told the woman at the well that the reason he was talking to her about her life on earth and her eternal destiny was that His Father was seeking true worshipers. Then Jesus said, "Look at the fields. They are ripe for the harvest of more worshipers." The point of evangelism is not getting people saved or keeping them out of hell; it is getting worshipers.
Jesus might say the same thing to us. Look around at the ripe fields of those who do not know what it means to worship the living God. If staying out of hell is our main motivation for salvation, we will operate only in our own self-interest. What is the primary motivation for our relationship with Jesus? If it is anything other than to worship, we have only a business bargain with him. God intends for us to come alive to Him in worship.