As created beings — “creatures” — humans are hardwired to acknowledge — to worship — the source of our existence; something bigger than ourselves. That is, we either act out our trust in God, our Creator, or we bow down to something or someone of the also-created world.
The word, “worship” is from an anglo-saxon root: weorthscipe — which means “to show the shape of our worths.”
The misdirection of our impulse to worship is a fundamental issue in the Bible. Look at the idols so dramatically portrayed throughout the Old Testament and into the New. And observe today’s worship of cheap substitutes rather than the All Glorious God.
Consider the ardor of thousands of patrons calling on Lady Luck as they hunch over slot machines in the casinos spotted across the land. Or the search for deeper reality from mind-altering drugs.
Or consider that one person worships nature; another a companion’s beauty; yet another, material possessions. We worship that which preoccupies us, commands our allegiance, or comes to dominate our wills.
Christians avoid the lure of these idolatries by worshiping diligently the true God revealed in Jesus Christ.
George S. Gunn in his little book on the Psalms, Singers of Israel, identifies five goals of divine worship. I offer them in adapted form.
1. We declare openly our adoration and thanksgiving. We may do it with words, like saying the Lord’s Prayer. Or by gestures, like closing our eyes, kneeling, raising our hands, or pausing in silence. Whatever the method, it is worship that is visible or audible.
2. We acknowledge and confess our sins. The Christian life is overwhelmingly a life of joy. But whenever we come before God in worship there should be occasion to examine our lives for anything that displeases Him. Jesus said, “When you pray, say … forgive us our sins, as we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Matthew 6:9a, 12).
3. We nourish our personal faith amid all the problems, fears, and doubts in life. Job acknowledged, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). But worship of the Living God is a wonderful antidote to despair because in true worship we remind ourselves potently of an all-sufficient God who comes alongside us in our troubles (Psalm 46:1).
4. We give open witness to others and especially to the oncoming generations. A Christian who was diligent in attending public worship rain or shine was asked by a not-so-diligent fellow believer why she attended so faithfully. She replied, “I always want my neighbors to know which side I’m on.”
5. We crown and complete our worship by “service, gifts and sacrifice.” When King David wanted to build an altar and worship God, Araunah offered to give him the land and sacrificial animal free of charge. King David insisted on paying him. He said, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24a). The grace of God is free but we give of ourselves generously in the face of human need.
For help to worship, listen to the recommendation of James Gilmour, fearless missionary to Mongolia. He wrote:
When I find I cannot make headway in devotion, I open the Bible at the Psalms and push out in my canoe, and let myself be carried along in the stream of devotion which flows through the whole book; the current always sets toward God and in most places is strong and deep.
Photo credit: mac mitchell (via flickr.com)