Worship is a word that conjures up varying images from people, but usually at the center is a group of a people with eyes lifted up to our Lord and mouths open in song uniformly praising God. However, by reducing worship to nothing more than singing we fail to understand the substance and motivation of worship. Therefore, it is important to understand that worship is a “response to the activities and/or attributes of God in Spirit and truth” (1).
This definition is based upon John 4 in which Jesus talks to the woman of Samaria and he says, “But the hour I coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). Worship captures much more than songs then. It captures hearts and minds elevated to God in adoration because of both who he is and what he does. The very fact that there are true worshipers implies that there must be false worshipers as well, which can be defined as those not worshiping in Spirit or truth.
The implications of Christ’s words here are quite spectacular because they convey something that is not often considered: part of worship must include the truth. What does that mean? It means that our worship must be theologically-based with a theology that is defined by the Bible. Such a thought means that belief in aspects like the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture or the sufficiency of the Son are acts of worship because they are a response to the activities and attributes of God.
A right theology, which is merely the study of God, initiates three perceptions that impact one’s worship.
- Displays God: First, the study of God illuminates God. By knowing who God is we are more inclined to respond to him in worship because of the deep recognition of God’s magnificence.
- Displays Man: Secondly, theology explains to us the depths of our depravity, our need for God, and our inability to save ourselves. The result is an intensified worship that is fixated upon God more because it takes our gaze off of ourselves.
- Displays Truth: Finally, theology should bring about truth, specifically the truth that is necessary for our worship of God. It guides us in how to worship and who to worship.
Three simplistic areas that many people take for granted, the depths of these characteristics are implicitly linked to our worship and thus make theology vital to our worship.
It’s important to note an important distinction. Much of the worship that takes place today is motivated not by God, but by self. Sometimes it is masked by the supposed adoration of the Lord. However, a closer examination reveals the heart is deeply entrenched in exalting self over God. Furthermore, we take our beliefs for granted without considering whether they are truthful. That means that our songs sometimes fail to capture the motivation behind worship while our prayers do more to elevate ‘me’ over my God. Furthermore, preaching fails to convey the integrity of God and His Word. Therefore it is to this end an examination of worship is important.
(1) I have previously shared this definition in other writings and interviews here at Soli Deo Gloria and other publications, however, it is important to note that this came from one of my former professors, Dr. Greg Harris, of The Master’s Seminary and GloryBooks.org.
Photo “Holy Cross at Sunrise” courtesy of user Sean MacEntee and Flickr.