The worship of God is a great privilege and an awesome responsibility.
The Scriptures declare, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created (Revelation 4:11; ESV).”
Sadly, there are many in this world who do not acknowledge that God is worthy of worship, and they refuse to give Him the praise He deserves. They are those spoken of, “or although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools… (Romans 1:20-21; ESV)”
Still others, acknowledging that God is worthy of worship, seem to have fallen into the notion that worship is something that other people can do for them.
Worship, biblically speaking, could probably be best defined the act of giving to God. You can worship by giving honor and praise to God. You can worship by giving God thanks. You can worship by giving God of your goods. Ultimately, you can worship by giving God your very self, as it is written, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, … this is your acceptable worship (Romans 12:1).”
In all these things, as we worship, there are two important things to keep in mind.
Firstly, it is important to worship God according to the commands of God, in Spirit and in Truth (cf. John 4:24). If we are to honor God as wise and as supreme, then we can show honor best by respecting Him enough to respect His wishes in regards as to how we worship. The Bible has several warnings against trying to worship God in the manner that seems best to us. Cain was the first to get in trouble by offering God worship God had not asked for (cf. Genesis 4:1-6). He was certainly not the last. The Bible is filled with individuals who were chastised or punished for offering God the wrong worship from Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, who offered unasked for fire (cf Leviticus 10:1-3) to Jereboam who built golden calves in Dan and Bethel, ordained his own priesthood and created his own holy days (cf.1 Kings 12:25-33). Jesus said concerning this, “In vain do they worship, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9).”
But secondly, and no less important – God wants the individual to be worshipping. Too many today think of worship as an activity where they go and observe others going through the motions for them, whether it be watching a band perform on stage, or watching the preacher preach as one might watch a comedian perform on stage. Signs of this mentality are seen in those who declare, “I didn’t get anything from the worship today.” To such a mindset, worship is about receiving; it ceases to elevate God and has instead elevated self to the throne.
Consider the song service. The command of God is clear. God tells His people, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16; ESV) and again “ be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart (Ephesians 5:19).”
There is no command to worship by listening to others sing. The command is reciprocal, demanding the full participation of all: “sing to one another.” If your worship is listening to other people sing to you, you have moved yourself from the giver to the receiver, from the worshiper to the object of worship. God, not self, is to be the audience for the worship.
Many perhaps think they feel “worshipful” as they listen to others sing, moved to think spiritual thoughts perhaps, but they are not themselves worshipping. Worship is not the feeling of feelings, it is the giving of self to God, an activity which demands full participation.
This principle is applicable to all of Christianity – making our lives a “living sacrifice” is not a spectator’s sport. We can’t pay others to live the Christian life for us, any more than we can worship God by allowing others to sing for us. It demands our full and active participation. If we offer God less, we are offering Him less than He deserves.
God truly deserves to be praised, and the church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise if you have any questions or comments, we invite you to share them with us at chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.